Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel feels that Manchester City's fewer injuries and coronavirus cases have been a pivotal factor in the Premier League title race.
Despite having previously held top spot earlier in the campaign, the Blues square off against leaders City on Saturday afternoon sitting 10 points adrift of their hosts.
Tuchel has praised City for their form in the Premier League, Pep Guardiola's team putting together a run of 11 successive wins since November 6.
However, Tuchel has claimed that his squad's excessive amount of injuries and coronavirus cases have prevented his team from lasting the pace.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference, Tuchel said: "The biggest difference so far in the season as far as I am concerned is that they dealt better with injuries and the Covid situation.
"Maybe it is unlucky, maybe they do it better, but they have less injuries from key players, less days out, less weeks when they miss them. They did suffer from Covid as we did over many weeks.
"It is a huge difference because we had some draws in the season which are unnecessary. If you have your full squad, you create a certain atmosphere for everybody that pushes everybody to the edge. You need to be on your edge if you want to compete with Man City.
"They are the benchmark. They are the best team in England right now. This is something that we have to admit, realistically."
Earlier in the press conference, Tuchel acknowledged that the title race will "maybe" be over if his side fall to defeat at the Etihad Stadium.