Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City: main talking points as Pep Guardiola’s side claim crucial victory at Stamford Bridge
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In what has always been billed as a crucial showdown for Manchester City on Thursday night, Pep Guardiola’s side clinched a robust 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
At the start of their midweek trip to west London, Arsenal sat eight points behind Arsenal and found a way back up top of the table. Finally, it was second-half substitute Riyad Mahrez who knocked home from close range and helped Sky Blues snag all three points.
City were recovering from last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Everton and were still breathing down the Gunners’ necks. Also, City put more pressure on Graham Potter’s shoulders.
Remarkably, while Chelsea almost got the opener through Carney Chukwuemeka, Thursday’s hosts managed to secure just one Premier League win in their last eight games.
Now that he sits 10 points adrift of finding a way back into the top four and faces a real uphill battle in the new year, there seems to be plenty of concern around Stamford Bridge.
On an evening when Guardiola’s team closed the gap at the top of the table, we took a look at the main talking points.
City reduced the deficit
With Arsenal drawn 0-0 at home to Newcastle earlier in the week, City traveled to west London on Thursday night knowing they had to make a real mark.
Eight points adrift of the high-profile Gunners in their midweek showdown at Stamford Bridge, the former Barcelona boss knows his superstars can’t afford too many slip-ups anymore.
The defending champions, who ended 2022 with a surprise 1-1 draw against relegated Everton on New Year’s Eve, had only managed a single Premier League win in the previous three tries on either side of the World Cup break.
Guardiola enters the celebratory break with an infamous 2-1 loss at home to Brentford on November 12 and will now call his side to find some stability in the second half of the season.
City’s 1-0 win, who looked truly professional in the second 45 on Thursday night, is also just the second Premier League clean sheet they have conceded since early October.
Quiet night for Haaland
With Chelsea showing some extended defensive problems in the early stages of Potter’s tenure, many wondered how Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly would handle Erling Haaland’s arrival on Thursday night.
Although Koulibaly has struggled to impress since arriving in west London, the Blues’ veteran partnership has done a tough job of disrupting the new Premier League record-breaker.
With Haaland not showing a single touch in the first 20 minutes, the 22-year-old faced no questions about Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal in his quietest performance since moving to the Premier League.
Haaland has already scored 21 goals in the top flight this season and is on his way to this season’s Golden Boot. There’s no doubt Haaland will be looking to prove Thursday’s draft was just a minor blip on his exceptional record.
Haaland has a vital role to play if City are to defend their domestic crown this season and is also hoping to exact revenge on Chelsea immediately when the two sides meet in an FA Cup showdown this weekend.
Potter’s injury headaches continue
Along with Chelsea now facing a big uphill battle in 2023 if they are to claim another top four finish this season, Potter will have a real headache from the mounting injury list at Stamford Bridge.
After England international Reece James suffered another injury-related setback last month and is expected to miss the rest of the January fixtures, the former Brighton manager is also without a number of first-team stars.
On a list that includes the likes of Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, Armando Broja, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Edouard Mendy, fans in west London would have been greatly frustrated at seeing another pair of their international stars on Thursday night.
In another heavy blow for the former European champions, Chelsea saw both Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic pick up injuries in the first half.
The Blues really need to look to their youth options in the second half following the signings of Lewis Hall and Omari Hutchinson and are desperate for reinforcements this month.
Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Silva, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Zakaria, Kovacic, Ziyech, Sterling, Pulisic, Havertz
Substitutes: Aubameyang, Hall, Gallagher, Hutchinson, Chukwuemeka
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Ake, Rodri, Silva, Cancelo, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Haaland
Substitutes: Mahrez, Akanji, Lewis, Grealish, Phillips
Goals: Mahrez (63′)
Yellow cards: Kovacic, Koulibaly
Red cards: N/A
Referee: Paul Tierney