Excitement rippled across the footballing world with news that Manchester City had reignited the Premier League title race. They had done the unthinkable, they had caught Chelsea and put serious pressure on Antonio Conte’s side. It was going to be a classic, a title race to overshadow any other significant world events going on at the moment. Take that, Donald Trump.
Unfortunately that is not really what has happened. Manchester City’s almighty leap towards competing for the title was to reduce Chelsea’s lead to eight points. That is three defeats for Chelsea even if Manchester City were to win all their remaining matches. There are only 13 matches left and Chelsea have lost only one of their league matches since September. Chelsea have been magnificent this season.
While there has been a drop off in their shots on target per game and shots on target conceded per game has increased, Chelsea’s form, despite dropping slightly of late, does not suggest a title race is in the offing. Manchester City are red hot, their attack looks unstoppable, but they are simply not going to win all of their remaining matches. Even if they were to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, they still require a Newcastle-esque meltdown from Antonio Conte’s team.
Chelsea’s fixtures leading up to that encounter are favourable. Facing Swansea, West Ham, Stoke City and Crystal Palace, the Blues could well have an even greater lead. Manchester City play Liverpool and Arsenal before they head to West London for a potential title showdown.
Injuries are, as ever, cited as the main cause of a downfall for Chelsea. David Luiz wearing a bandage on his leg – a war wound from their last encounter with Manchester City – or Eden Hazard being ruled out for several matches are the greatest threat to a comfortable Chelsea title win.
At their current point gathering pace, Chelsea will finish with 91 points. 91 points will win Chelsea the title and quite comfortably, too. To give it some context, Manchester City would have to win all of their remaining matches to reach that total. Chelsea, then, must drop points and drop them at a far greater rate than they have done so far this season. While plausible, of course, Chelsea’s comparatively empty fixture list and solid defence makes fatigue and upsets very unlikely. With only two matches remaining against the top six – one of which being the encounter with Manchester City – Pep Guardiola’s side cannot even get any favours from their rivals.
Broadcasting companies want to keep interest in the title race. It boosts viewing figures, which keeps their businesses going. It makes perfect sense for them to inject energy into the closing months of the season, but we should take it all as the crude marketing that it is. While the title is not sewn up for Chelsea as Jose Mourinho has suggested, they are not far from that point. Manchester City have title winning experience, of course, but their own inconsistencies loom over their title credentials even at this stage.
Chelsea have benefited from a lack of European football, they have been just too good this season. We have not got the title race that so many expected at the start of this campaign, but Antonio Conte and his team deserve credit for blowing everyone else away.