Chelsea manager Frank Lampard says his team will have to get used to added pressure during a nervy Premier League run-in after they beat Watford on Saturday.
Manchester United had leapfrogged the Blues – who lost 3-2 at West Ham on Wednesday – into fourth place by thrashing Bournemouth earlier in the day.
However, Lampard’s side responded with a comfortable win over the struggling Hornets to reclaim the final automatic qualification spot for next season’s Champions League.
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for the Blues, latching on to Ross Barkley’s clever pass and steering a left-foot shot into the bottom-right corner.
While Watford worked hard to contain the hosts, they offered little to suggest they were capable of a first win at Stamford Bridge since 1986.
And they fell further behind before the break, with Etienne Capoue’s rash challenge on Christian Pulisic resulting in a Chelsea penalty that Willian converted.
Thereafter it was relatively plain sailing for Lampard’s side, who rounded off the scoring when Barkley found the top left corner from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.
The Blues have now won three of their four games since the top flight resumed in June.
“Pre-West Ham, we could have gone third and we let ourselves down,” Lampard told Sky Sports.
“Today, there was a bit of pressure to get back to fourth and we produced – so get used to that pressure, whatever way it looks, because it’s going to be tough all the way through.”
Nigel Pearson’s Watford remain a point above the relegation zone but have played a game more than 18th-placed Aston Villa, who travel to champions Liverpool on Sunday (16:30 BST).
Reaction to Chelsea’s win over Watford plus all the rest of Saturday’s Premier League action
Chelsea regain mojo and top-four place
Manchester United’s thumping victory against Bournemouth had seen Chelsea drop out of the top four places for the first time since 26 October.
But this was the perfect response from Lampard’s side who were brimming with energy throughout and appeared galvanised by Wednesday’s lacklustre defeat at West Ham.
Chelsea 3-0 Watford as blues boost their Champions League hope with a win over Watford Watch Goals highlights pic.twitter.com/62bzlygN3l
— Tunde (@tundezyw) July 5, 2020
The Blues made four changes to their starting XI and looked considerably more assured defensively while Willian – who scored a penalty in his third consecutive game – Barkley and Pulisic provided the thrust going forward.
England midfielder Barkley was particularly impressive, demanding the ball in tight areas and then restricting his number of touches to get out of trouble and maintain Chelsea’s attacking momentum.
Chelsea’s opener was the perfect example as he controlled and swivelled away from a defender in one movement and then sliced open the Watford defence with his third touch.
Barkley, who played more attacking passes (47) than any of Chelsea’s other front six players, also capped a fine individual performance with his first Premier League goal of the campaign late on.