I was originally scheduled to write an article this week about why the title was Chelsea’s to lose. This was after the editor had asked me to write one a few weeks ago about why it was actually City’s to lose.
Stubbornly, I refused. I felt that City’s bubble would burst and that the work done by Jose Mourinho over the Christmas period and January transfer window would be enough to see the Special One clinch the title in his first season back in England.
I was most likely wrong.
Following City’s absolute mullering of Tottenham, and Chelsea’s draw at home to West Ham, I am forced to concede something that writers never like to: my editor was probably right. City are indeed in pole position to clinch their second Premier League crown, and it would take either a brave man or a fool to say otherwise.
However, crucially, it’s not over. In fact, a win for Mourinho’s Chelsea against City on Monday would put the two sides level on points with 14 games to go. The importance of the Blues’ trip to the Etihad cannot be undervalued, and given that it is likely to be one of the games of the season, I thought it was worth spending a bit of time on just how important this game could prove to be.
Whoever does their ‘thing’ best will prevail
As evidenced by their thrashing of Spurs on Wednesday night, Man City aren’t short of a goal or two. In fact, their victory at White Hart Lane was the 13th time this season that the Citizens have scored three or more goals in a game. In fact, Manuel Pellegrini’s side have scored an average of 2.96 goals per Premier League game which is an astonishing statistic given that the record over the course of the season is currently held by Chelsea at 2.7.
However, if City are the marauding goal-hungry go-getters of the Premier League, then Chelsea are the … well … misers of this year’s competition. The Blues have conceded less than a goal a game in their 23 fixtures this term. In John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea possess an impossibly mean defence, and they’ll be looking to dominate proceedings on Monday.
Quite simply, then, it’s an attack-versus-defence-type scenario, and this should make for a fascinating contest. Whoever can do what they’re good at best will most likely run out as victors on the night.
Will this game be decisive?
Quite simply, yes, I think it will. I’m afraid I don’t buy the line that Arsenal are genuine title contenders, and if Arsene Wenger fails to add a highly necessary striker to his squad I think there’s every chance that they’ll be out of the title race by March. Whilst some might not like that opinion, I’m sticking to it, and therefore I believe that the two teams in this clash are the only two possible title candidates.
With that in mind, then, we see how crucial it is that Chelsea get something from this fixture. Mourinho’s men are already three points behind City, and a loss on Monday would leave them six points adrift. Mourinho is an exceptional manager, but I believe that even he would be hard pressed to make up that points difference against a side of City’s calibre. Barring a collapse, if City win on Monday, I believe that title is in the bag.
If Chelsea win – and in so doing become the first team to win at the Etihad this season – I believe that will galvanise the West London club even further, and their mean defence coupled with the trickery and brilliance of their attacking trio of Willian, Hazard and Oscar will see them over the line.
Whichever way you look at it, Monday’s game will be pivotal. I can hardly wait.