In what was always billed as a crucial showdown for Manchester City on Thursday night, Pep Guardiola’s side clinched a rugged 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge.
Opening their midweek trip to west London sat eight points adrift of Arsenal and finding a route back to the top of the table, it was eventually second-half sub Riyad Mahrez who tapped home from close range and helped the Sky Blues snatch all three points.
Bouncing back from last weekend’s 1-1 draw against Everton and still breathing down the Gunners’ neck, City also pilled more pressure onto Graham Potter’s shoulders.
While Chelsea might have come close to opening the scoring through Carney Chukwuemeka, Thursday’s hosts have now remarkably managed to claim just a sole Premier League victory from their last eight appearances.
Now sat 10 points adrift of finding a route back into the top-four and facing a real uphill struggle in the New Year, there appears to be plenty of concern around Stamford Bridge.
On a night when Guardiola’s side closed the gap at the top of the table, we have taken a look at the main talking points.
City cut the deficit
Watching on as Arsenal had to settle for a 0-0 stalemate at home against Newcastle earlier in the week, City made the trip to west London on Thursday night knowing that they had to lay down a real marker.
Opening their midweek showdown at Stamford Bridge sat eight points adrift of the high-flying Gunners, the former Barcelona boss knows that his superstars can not afford many more slip-ups.
Signing off 2022 with a shock 1-1 draw against relegation scrappers Everton on New Year’s Eve, the defending champions had recorded just a single Premier League win from their previous three attempts on either side of the World Cup break.
Heading into the festive interval with an infamous 2-1 loss at home against Brentford on November 12th, Guardiola will now be calling on his side to find some stability during the second-half of the season.
Really putting on a professional display during the second 45 on Thursday night, City’s 1-0 victory here is also just the second Premier League clean sheet that they have managed to record since the start of October.
Quiet night for Haaland
With Chelsea showing some extended defensive issues during the early stages of Potter’s tenure, many were wondering how Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly would deal with Erling Haaland’s arrival on Thursday night.
However, although Koulibaly might have largely struggled to impress since arriving in west London, the Blues’ veteran partnership done a rugged job of disrupting the Premier League’s new record-breaker.
With Haaland failing to produce a single touch during the opening 20 minutes, the 22-year-old failed to ask any questions of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s goal in what was his most quiet performance since making his Premier League switch.
Already notching 21 top-flight strikes this season and easing his way towards this season’s Golden Boot, there is no doubt that Haaland will be looking to prove that Thursday’s draught was nothing more than a minor blip on his exceptional record.
With a vital role to play if City are to defend their domestic crown this season, Haaland will also be hoping to get some immediate revenge on Chelsea when the two sides meet for an FA Cup showdown this weekend.
Potter’s injury headache continues
Along with Chelsea now facing a major uphill struggle in 2023 if they’re to claim another top-four finish this season, Potter will have a real headache over what has become a mounting injury list at Stamford Bridge.
With England international Reece James suffering yet another injury set-back last month and expected to miss the rest of January’s schedule, the former Brighton boss has also been without a string 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 around west London would have been hugely frustrated to see another pair of their international stars limp off on Thursday night.
In what looks to be another huge blow for the former European champions, Chelsea were forced to watch on as both Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic picked up first-half injuries.
Really having to turn to their youth options in the second-half after bringing on Lewis Hall and Omari Hutchinson, the Blues are desperate for reinforcements this month.
Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Silva, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Zakaria, Kovacic, Ziyech, Sterling, Pulisic, Havertz
Subs: Aubameyang, Hall, Gallagher, Hutchinson, Chukwuemeka
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Ake, Rodri, Silva, Cancelo, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Foden, Haaland
Subs: Mahrez, Akanji, Lewis, Grealish, Phillips
Goals: Mahrez (63′)
Yellow Cards: Kovacic, Koulibaly
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Paul Tierney