Pep Guardiola has said that Manchester City are taking “the last steps” to the title. Good for them. Some might argue that it’s a blessed relief that one of the least competitive Premier League seasons ever should soon be done and dusted.
This does City a discourtesy, of course. Apart from that bizarre defeat by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup, they have been imperious almost every single time they have taken to the field. And some of the football they have played has been breath-taking.
Guardiola’s comments came after his men barely broke sweat against Arsenal on Thursday. Like the snow on the London streets, the Gunners were simply swept away inside 33 minutes when they found themselves 3-0 adrift.
If Guardiola counted that as a step (which would seem generous given Arsenal are also-rans), then arguably there are only three more this season: Chelsea at home on Sunday, Manchester United at home on April 7 and a clash with Tottenham Hotspur the following week. Even if they lost all three of those their lead (16 points) looks unbeatable.
Some might say that the Chelsea game affords an opportunity to get with City at a rare price at BMR’s green-listed bookmakers. The -162 (William Hill) could well be smashed to pieces by kick-off. After all, City have won all of their matches in the league at home this season apart from one.
Last time out, Chelsea were beaten at Manchester United. They took the lead and were terrific in the first half. But then they run out of puff. It was their third straight loss away from home in all competitions. Going further back, it is just one win in seven.
They did win 3-1 at the Etihad last season in their run to the title. Antoni Conte, the coach, conceded yesterday that City are a different proposition this term.
“I think last season Manchester City were always a fantastic team,” he said. “But after one season, then the manager tried to improve the quality of the starting XI, to improve the quality in his squad. This is the result.”
We will try to play the correct score odds to find a winner, bearing in mind how Chelsea set up against City earlier in the season. They were defensive-minded and City could manage just the solitary goal in taking the points. A repeat is +750 (William Hill).
The key stats here are goal averages. City average 3.5 at home this season. On the road, Chelsea concede 1.07. Something has got to give. Also, we need to be aware that although the Blues are tight at the back, they have kept a clean sheet only five times in 14 in the road. A 2-0 City win then is our pick at +800 (William Hill).