Chelsea has earned a plethora of important victories this season, but the Blues’ beating of Manchester City is perhaps the most impressive.
While Pep Guardiola downplayed the importance of this game for his squad, this match meant the world to Chelsea. Not because of the title implications or due to the narrative of the Blues as title clinchers, but for the sake of keeping Chelsea ahead of the pack in the top four race.
When analyzing the Blues’ remaining schedule, the game against Manchester City was one of—if not the—toughest games left to play. After a sub-par showing against Aston Villa that saw the Blues squeak out of Villa Park with a win, few knew what to expect of them. However, Frank Lampard delivered a tactical masterclass to school Guardiola and the Citizens, giving Chelsea its biggest victory of the season.
As Man City strolled into Stamford Bridge, the Citizens knew that two things were certain: Liverpool was going to eventually win the title and they would come second. On the other hand, nothing was guaranteed for the home side. Chelsea sat two points above in-form Manchester United and Wolves. With Leicester dropping points mid-week, as well, the west Londoners had to capitalize.
Goals from Christian Pulisic and Willian elevated the Blues to a five-point lead above United and Wolves with seven matches to go. Further, Chelsea now sits just one-point behind Leicester City in third. The top four has looked the same since early in the season, but a welcome change could be on the horizon.
As was the case at Tottenham late last year, the Blues shine on the biggest stages. Things haven’t always been easy this season, but whenever another club—be it Man United, Spurs, Wolves or Sheffield United—come for Chelsea’s Champions League place, the team seems to perform at its best. The Blues maintained a lead over the pack, despite a 12-match unbeaten run by Man United and have taken advantage of Leicester’s poor form.
The triumph over Guardiola’s side also showed supporters that the Blues aren’t far away from being the team City is now. While City has been unlucky with injuries over the course of the season, the Citizens are nowhere near what they were over the last two seasons. Chelsea has a lot of work to do to catch Liverpool, but with performances like this and added signings, the Blues may just surprise a few folks come next year.
Chelsea’s victory over Man City was vital to the club’s top four hopes. Now, the Blues have the chance to finish in the ‘best of the rest’ third place spot for the second season in a row. Wins like this define Lampard’s first season as manager, the sky is the limit for this Chelsea team in years to come.