BRIGHTON, England (AP) — Winning the Premier League title is looking more unlikely for Chelsea each passing week.
After a 1-1 draw at Brighton on Tuesday, the European champions soon might have to start looking over their shoulder in the race for Champions League qualification.
Chelsea’s winless run in the league stretched to four games after Brighton defender Adam Webster’s powerful header from a corner in the 60th minute canceled out the opening goal by Hakim Ziyech in the 29th.
Brighton also came from behind to draw 1-1 with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge three weeks ago.
Chelsea stayed in third place and is 12 points behind leader Manchester City having played one game more. Given the form of City, which has won its last 12 games — most recently against Chelsea on Saturday, the champions will take some stopping in the quest to defend their title.
The teams behind Chelsea might be getting renewed hope. Such as fifth-place Arsenal, which is nine points behind its London rival with three games in hand. Or another London club in Tottenham, which is in sixth place and 11 points behind Chelsea but has now played five games fewer.
Chelsea has played a game every three of four days since the last international break in mid-November — that’s 18 matches in two months — and manager Thomas Tuchel said his players “look tired.”
“In the moment, it’s difficult to be too harsh on our players,” Tuchel said. “We need some days off. There is no other solution.”
Another game is coming up this weekend, though, and it’s a big one against Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
Just like in the reverse fixture last month, ninth-place Brighton caused Chelsea problems with its intricate passing in midfield but again lacked composure and a cutting edge in the final third with Danny Welbeck playing as the lone striker.
“I can’t see too many teams controlling Brighton over 90 minutes,” Tuchel said.
Ziyech’s goal came from Chelsea’s first shot on target and was against the run of play. Brighton goalkeeper Robert Sanchez was slow to get down to the winger’s low effort from just outside the area that crept inside the post, having maybe taken a slight deflection off the knee of Alexis Mac Allister.
Tuchel will be unhappy at the manner of the equalizer, with Webster left unmarked to head in a left-wing corner from Mac Allister.
Brighton manager Graham Potter said it was a corner routine straight from the training ground and was delighted overall with the performance in his team’s 11th draw in its last 16 league matches.
“We didn’t sit back, we had to be positive,” Potter said. “Chelsea are a fantastic side. We were up against it but I’m happy with what we have done.”