Chelsea had a major opportunity on Saturday to make the Premier League title race more competitive as they matched up with leaders, Manchester City, who held a 10-point lead in the standings heading into the matchup. Following City’s 1-0 win, largely thanks to Kevin De Bruyne’s 70th minute goal, the leaders are 13 points clear at the top, having now won 12 matches in a row.
“The team were incredible, brilliant,” City manager Pep Guardiola said after the win. “The way we played, everything we have done. We cannot forget the team we played against; they are European champions. When you are there on the touchline you realize how incredible they are. You try to find spaces, but they’re not there.”
Only two City managers have completed the Premier League double over Chelsea: Roberto Mancini, and Guardiola. Another double over the Blues for Guardiola.
“All players gave everything. Important victory because we’re playing against a big contender,” Guardiola added.
Despite the loss, Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel wasn’t too critical of the team, focusing more on a lack of precision from his side.
“The result is disappointing, yes, but this can happen when you play at City,” Tuchel said. “I think we deserved a draw, we defended very well, didn’t concede many big chances. There was one in the first half from a big mistake from us.”
Tuchel was adamant in stating the difference was the ‘individual quality of Kevin De Bruyne’ that made the difference in this fixture.
“Performance-wise was okay,” Tuchel added. “Commitment-wise I’m absolutely OK with the performance, especially given we had to change our back three. We deserved a draw, it would have been a fair result, but we don’t have it. We have won games like this against City, that’s the way it is. We had eight or nine offensive transitions and zero touches in the box [in the first 45 minutes]. That was a big problem today, offensive-wise, the performance of the front players. That was down to a lack of precision, timing, and composure. At a level like this, we lost too many balls too easily.”
De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the box, the most of any player since his first season with Manchester City (2015/16).
“He has everything,” Guardiola said when asked about De Bruyne’s performance and second-half goal. “He has been with me here from day one. Everything we have won, we have won together. I am going to push him to keep on doing more and more. He’s a world-class player who has humility and is humble, it is not easy to find that.”
City won the possession battle 56-44, with six shots on goal compared to just one for Chelsea. City had 9 corner kicks compared to just one for Chelsea.
Chelsea are back in action against Brighton on Tuesday, 18 January.
Manchester City, now clear favorites to win the PL title this season, get some time off before facing Southampton on Saturday, 22 January.