Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas predicts close Premier League title race

Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas believes this season's title race could be the closest the Premier League has seen.

Frank Lampard's hat-trick in an emphatic 5-1 win at Bolton moved third-placed Chelsea three points behind Manchester United and Manchester City.

"The pattern is of a tight Premier League - this season may be the tightest ever," said Villas-Boas.

"We've just got to continue to compete and try to add the most amount of wins."

While United and City have been in superb form this season, both winning six and drawing the other of their seven Premier League fixtures, Villas-Boas is hopeful his side can close the gap when the Premier League returns from a two-week international break.

His side face a home game against Everton and then a trip to QPR while United and City face games against Liverpool and Aston Villa respectively before they meet in the Manchester derby on 23 October.

Villas-Boas, appointed in the summer after securing a treble of league, League Cup and Europa League titles at former club Porto, hopes the fixture list will enable Chelsea to gain further ground on the top two.

"It's a good thing for us looking into the future as the other big title chasers play against each other," said the 33-year-old.

"And if we can beat Everton then we can wait for these results and be closer to the top, or move away from those challenging us.

"The Premier League is taking a pattern with other teams like Newcastle and Tottenham challenging us for this position and Liverpool winning the Liverpool derby."

Reflecting on his desire to help Chelsea regain the Premier League title they lost to United last season, he added: "Most of these players went through a season when they weren't champions and it hurts them.

"All of them are focused on getting the Premier League back."

Meanwhile, Lampard silenced some of the recent critics who claimed his influence was waning following his recent stint on the bench for club and country with a majestic performance against Bolton.

"There is only one way to answer critics - you have to keep going and working hard and today it all came for me. I'm very pleased," the 33-year-old England international said.

"I wouldn't say I'm happy when not playing because I want to earn my money but you have to have respect for the manager, the players and the squad. I'll always keep working hard to play for this club."

Of Daniel Sturridge, who scored the other two Chelsea goals, Lampard added: "He's going to be a huge player for us from this season and onwards.

"He's got great speed and ability. [His loan spell at Bolton last season] was a great thing for him. We know we've got a very exciting player."