Antonio Conte has claimed that the race for the Premier League title is still "totally open" after Chelsea's 4-2 win over Southampton on Tuesday night (25 April), which moved his side seven points clear of Tottenham at the top of the Premier League.
The Italian boss hailed the Blues' determination to secure a hard-fought win after identifying Gary Cahill's goal just before half-time as the crucial moment of the game.
Chelsea saw their Premier League title hope dented with a 2-0 defeat at Manchester United on 16 April.
However, the Blues have since returned to form, taking a further step towards the double by beating Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday (22 April), before the win against Southampton on Tuesday night.
"We passed a big psychological step after the defeat to United because we lost three points and then we had to prepare for a semi-final against Tottenham and another tough game in the league. I think we have had a really important test and our answer was very good so for this reason I must be pleased," Conte said in the press conference following the win over Southampton.
"We must think the race is open. We reached the final of the FA Cup but the league is totally open. We are ready to fight until the end and we must be proud of what we are doing this season. It's normal we have to push to try to keep this position until the end."
Eden Hazard put Chelsea ahead after only five minutes, but former Blue Oriol Romeu equalised later in the half to pile pressure to the Blues. However, the leaders managed to bounce back and Gary Cahill scored a header to restore the lead just before half-time.
"It was very important otherwise we would have gone into the changing room at 1-1, it's not the same and my speech wouldn't have been the same. I'm pleased for Gary, he scored a really important goal for us and maybe it gave us more confidence for the second half," Conte said.
"It wasn't easy, we faced a very strong team who were rested for 10 days. They had no pressure so you can enjoy these type of games when you face the team who are top of the league. My players showed me a great will and desire to win the game. It's important to rest tomorrow and prepare for another tough game at Everton."
Cahill's goals proved to be crucial as Diego Costa's brace in the second half allowed Chelsea to kill the game, before Ryan Bertrand netted a consolation effort for Southampton.
Costa had failed to find the net in the previous five Premier League games, but Conte said that he was always confident that the Spaniard would recoup his goal scoring in time to help the Blues in the title run-in.
"For strikers it's very important to score because the goal is your life," Conte said. "I always said I was very pleased with his commitment and work for the team. Sometimes he was lacking in different circumstances but I was always confident about him. If you remember, in the Tottenham press conference I said he was saving his goals for the final part of the season. It's important for his confidence and for us. He scored two beautiful goals where he showed good quality and good combinations between him and his team-mates."