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Chelsea's title hopes disappearing quickly

Chelsea will struggle to overhaul a nine-point deficit to Manchester City after a "damaging" defeat to Crystal Palace, believes Ray Wilkins.

Antonio Conte suffered back-to-back defeats for only the second time in his tenure at Stamford Bridge to leave the defending champions facing a tough challenge to catch high-flying Manchester City and Manchester United.

The former Chelsea assistant manager is concerned that the London club's bid to defend their domestic league title is over and believes the manner of their 2-1 defeat to Roy Hodgson's side is a further cause for concern.

"It's massively damaging for Antonio Conte," Wilkins told Sky Sports. "They are nine points adrift of Manchester City having played them at Stamford Bridge. At the moment their title chances are disappearing rather rapidly. But I feel for him because I would hate to see more defeats crop up because I think he has done a good job.

"They didn't go down fighting and went down with a whimper. It is crippling for Chelsea to lose in that manner. They just had no energy or life and I was disappointed."

Conte suffered a difficult start to last season, which included successive defeats at the hands of Liverpool and Arsenal, before going on a 13-match unbeaten run in the Premier League to take charge of the title race.

Wilkins believes that Chelsea's defeat at the hands of Manchester City has hurt their hopes of winning the Premier League but is equally alarmed at the rate of goals coming from Pep Gaurdiola's attacking options.

"It wouldn't be if we have two games to play against them," said Wilkins, when asked whether nine points was too big a gap to overhaul. "But we don't. We have already lost to Manchester City and this side is absolutely rampant.

"Whoever they play against they are scoring bucket loads of goals. To claw that back is a tough gig. They have got to go on a run like after Arsenal beat us last year to stand any chance at all."

Wilkins also believes the strength of Chelsea's squad has been hit hard by the departures of Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa while Conte has suffered injuries to key players including N'Golo Kante, summer signing Alvaro Morata and Victor Moses.

Wilkins added: "I think the squad is weaker. We have replaced Matic for Tiemoue Bakayokou. In the coming years, he (Bakayokou) will become an exceptional player because he has that stature and ability.

"He scored on Saturday but is not a great scorer from the middle of the pitch. Neither was Matic but he had the know-how of how to play that position. Bakayoko is still growing into that position.

"Morata up front has done very well but for me, he is no Diego Costa and unfortunately we have now lost Morata as well so we are having to rely on Batshuayi. On Saturday he was a liability. His movement is almost null and void. When you are playing in a team like Chelsea your movement has to be first-class up front."