CHELSEA were many people’s tip for the title when the season kicked off.
Yet by 2.30pm on Saturday, January 15th their race could effectively be run – with four months of it still remaining.
With only 16 matches to play and Pep Guardiola’s side looking so good, that would surely be too big a gap to make up.
It’s not that Chelsea's league campaign has been disastrous – they have lost only twice all season and are averaging more than two points per game.
Not too long ago, a tally of 43 points from your opening 21 matches would be seen as a good springboard to push on during the run-in.
Things have changed since Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp arrived on these shores though.
When you are competing against this City team, not bad is simply not enough. The bar is set much higher than that.
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Chelsea edged out Pep’s team to win the Champions League in Porto in May after also beating them in the league and FA Cup in the weeks before.
With a top manager in Tuchel at the helm, the expectation was that they would kick on – and they got the money to help them do it.
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 proved that you don’t always need an expensive striker to leave your rivals trailing.
As if to demonstrate the point he even flogged Ferran Torres – one of the forwards earmarked for the position in the summer – to Barcelona earlier this month.
City – clearly stung by that hat-trick of defeats – turned in one of their best performances under Guardiola when the teams 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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