CHELSEA were many people’s advice for the title at the start of the season.
Yet, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday January 15, their race could indeed take place – with still four months to go.
A defeat at the Etihad at the midday kick-off would leave Thomas Tuchel’s men 13 points behind their opponents Manchester City.
With just 16 games left and Pep Guardiola’s side looking so good, that would surely be too big a gap to close.
It’s not that Chelsea’s league campaign has been disastrous – they’ve only lost twice all season and are averaging more than two points per game.
Not too long ago, a tally of 43 points in your first 21 games would be considered a good stepping stone to continue during break-in.
Things have changed since Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp arrived on these shores.
When you’re competing against this City side, not bad just isn’t good enough. The bar is set much higher than that.
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Chelsea edged out Pep’s side to win the Champions League at Porto in May after also beating them in the league and FA Cup in previous weeks.
With a top manager in Tuchel at the helm, they were expected to go for it – and they got the money to help them do so.
Roman Abramovich didn’t get much change on £100million by bringing Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge.
For that kind of money, the Russian owner will expect more than just a place in the Carabao Cup final as a return on his huge investment.
Meanwhile, Guardiola has proven that you don’t always need an expensive striker to leave your rivals behind.
As if to demonstrate, he even whipped Ferran Torres – one of the forwards slated for the job this summer – at Barcelona earlier this month.
City – clearly stung by that hat-trick of defeats – had one of their best performances under Guardiola when the sides met in London in September.
A repeat of that this weekend will show the European champions they still have some way to go.
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