The early game this weekend is going to be massive. Not just because it’s two of the biggest teams in the Premier League. Not just because it’ll have two of the most talented managers in the game tactically sparing for 90+ minutes. Not just because we’ll see some of the biggest names in world soccer on the same field. No, this game has massive implications in the title race. Now, it’s only just become December, so you would think that points won or dropped so early can always be made up. Quite the contrary, however. These two teams have shown that they will be there or thereabouts until the very end and any points gained or lost here will be incredibly important.
The title race is so close that whichever team wins will go top of the table. If Manchester City win, they go top by two points, unless Liverpool win their game making them top of goal differential (unless Manchester City win massively). If Chelsea win, they go top by four points, putting a game buffer between themselves and Manchester City. This buffer cannot be underestimated. In what appears to be a tight title race, any wiggle room is to relieving any sort of pressure.
As for Chelsea, specifically, this isn’t so much as relieving pressure as it is certifying themselves as title pacesetters. They have currently put a run together that has seen them pick up an astonishing seven league wins in a row. While most of those were teams that they “should have beaten,” the back-to-back games against Tottenham and Manchester City were where they were expected to stumble a bit. After winning their match against Tottenham, following it up with a win over Manchester City will establish them as the team to beat in this title race.
Manchester City, on the other hand, have had a bit of a wobble in recent weeks. That’s not to say they’ve been poor, because they are still only a point behind 1st. That said, teams are willing to attack them in a way that should be very worrying to Guardiola and his team. That fear factor is evaporating and they need to quickly regain the frightening form from the beginning of the season or risk more dropped points.
Also worth noting is that while many have credited Manchester City as being favorites for the title, their form against the top sides in the league has been poor. With only two wins against teams in the Top 10 (Manchester United and West Brom), Manchester City have racked up eight of a total 15. That’s not good enough for the league favorites. Instead, the majority of their points have come from beating the teams that they are expected to beat.
Against Chelsea, they need to prove they can do it against the “big teams,” the genuine title contenders. When you shrink the sample size to only the teams in the top five, you find that they’ve only played against one of those teams, Tottenham, where they were utterly dominated. Manchester City must not let that happen against Chelsea is they are to reclaim their spot at the top of the league. They need to prove they deserve to be in the top three on merits of beating everyone, not just flat track bullies.
When analyzing this game, it becomes clear who needs this win more. Manchester City haven’t looked great in the last few games, needing two massive mistakes from Bournemouth to win last week for example. On top of this, City haven’t won at home in the league since September. Coupled with Arsenal nipping at Manchester City and Liverpool’s heels, they need these points. While the implications of winning or losing this game are massive, Chelsea have been so good lately that they can recover from a loss fairly quickly here. The same cannot be said for Manchester City right now. With all that said, it’ll almost certainly be a 0-0 draw then. I love soccer.