Man City win over Chelsea could herald three-way title race
Second defeat in a row for the Blues could see their once-mighty lead cut to four points
Chelsea's once impregnable lead at the top of the Premier League could be reduced to a mere four points if they fail to beat Manchester City at Stamford Bridge tonight and second placed Spurs take a fifth consecutive league win against Swansea.
The Blues were ten points clear of their nearest rivals last week, but their shock defeat to Crystal Palace at the weekend and the prospect of a tough game against Man City, followed by trips to Old Trafford and Goodison Park later this month, has raised the possibility of a nail-biting title race.
Some even believe victory at Stamford Bridge could catapult City back into the mix.
"Five years ago this week City were eight points behind Premier League leaders Manchester United with only six games remaining," says Guy Mowbray of the BBC, recalling the Manchester club's march to the title in 2012. "If they manage to follow Crystal Palace's lead and win at Stamford Bridge, they'll be eight behind Chelsea with eight games to play."
However, Pep Guardiola's team have been almost as capricious as Arsenal this season, unstoppable one week and completely flat the next, and Chelsea should be favourites at home.
"Man City are a work in progress and nowhere near the level Guardiola expects and demands of his team - this Chelsea side could have blown them apart a few weeks ago and we will learn a lot about their mental resilience if they can recover instantly from the shock defeat at the weekend," says JJ Bull of the Daily Telegraph.
"If Guardiola's players can frustrate Chelsea, disrupt their play and expose the defensive weaknesses that exist, the pressure will build on Conte's team. The longer that goes on, the harder it becomes to remain composed and heavier will grow the weight of expectation on their shoulders.
"City need more than a gentle nudge to shift Chelsea off-balance, but with a killer instinct they can be toppled, kick-starting a potentially thrilling title race."
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte will probably take a cautious approach tonight in the knowledge that a draw will leave his side with at least a five-point lead. That means, says Dominic Fifield of The Guardian, Cesc Fabregas will drop to the bench and Pedro is unlikely to play as a wing-back, as he did against Palace.
Conte has not experienced many setbacks at Stamford Bridge and will be determined to avoid another one, adds the journalist.
"The manager will be steeled for what is to come having experienced his team capitulating late on as a player with Juventus in 1999-2000," says Fifield.
"Conte has regularly cited the trauma of Lazio overhauling his side's seven-point lead over the last six games and his outlook in management – in Italy and now the Premier League – has been heavily influenced by those nightmarish memories."