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Conte hails Chelsea's 'big step' towards Premier League title

Antonio Conte says Chelsea took a "big step" towards winning the Premier League title by beating Middlesbrough 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday.

Chelsea will be crowned champions if they win at West Brom on Friday after goals from Diego Costa, Marcos Alonso and Nemanja Matic sealed a victory that resulted in Middlesbrough's relegation to the Championship.

Tottenham's defeat at West Ham provided Chelsea with the chance to stretch their advantage and Conte highlighted his side's battling spirit as they continued to close in on the title in his first season in charge of the club.

"I think this was important for us after the Tottenham defeat, the chance to take three points and make the gap seven points, it was very important to win," Conte told Sky Sports.

"Honestly this is a big step because now there are three games and we need to win one to win the title. It is big and this is our answer to Tottenham because they won nine games and lost only one in their last 10 games.

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"In this situation we showed a great will and desire to win the title. Now we are very close but we need to take another step.

"It's important to win it ourselves, we have the possibility to win it and not wait for the Tottenham result. We must focus and prepare well and West Brom away won't be easy.

"But we are in a good moment and with concentration and a good attitude we will try to win. For sure, a game against West Brom will be very tough."

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The contribution of Cesc Fabregas was key as he filled in for injured Player of the Year N'Golo Kante, with his pass to Matic making the Spaniard the first player to record at least 10 Premier League assists in six different seasons, surpassing Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, who managed that feat in five campaigns apiece.

Conte used Fabregas mainly as a substitute in the early weeks of his Stamford Bridge reign but the Chelsea boss said the 30-year-old had impressed him with his willingness to work hard.

"We all know Cesc and he improved a lot this season," Conte added. "I'm pleased for him because he put himself in the team.

"At the start of the season it wasn't easy because he didn't play a lot but he showed me he is performing well. I'm pleased for him because it shows from hard work you can succeed.

"I think we are doing a fantastic job and now we need to have another step, another win, and celebrate. It is important to rest and prepare well for the next game."