Chelsea showed why on Saturday that it’s far too soon to declare Manchester City as Premier League champions, and with a favourable run of fixtures in December, could we soon see Antonio Conte’s side firmly propelled back into the title race?
If titles were decided on December 1, most fans and pundits would have already crowned Manchester City as champions.
Granted, few have been able to live with Pep Guardiola’s side so far this season and Wednesday’s last-ditch win over Southampton only further enhanced theories that it will take something pretty special to stop them in their tracks. Even on their off days, they’re finding ways to grind out the wins. A true mark of champions, for sure….
Much of the focus on who is best to halt City in their tracks has focused on the red half of Manchester and Jose Mourinho – and it certainly keeps the title ‘race’ interesting by pitting the red side of the city against the blues.
However, it’s far too soon to eliminate defending champions Chelsea from the reckoning and Saturday lunchtime’s 3-1 victory over Newcastle served as timely reminder. When Dwight Gayle fired Newcastle into a deserved 12th-minute lead, it appeared the Magpies were poised to claim only their second victory at Stamford Bridge of the Premier League era.
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But Antonio Conte’s side are made of stern stuff and, unlike defending champions of recent years, seem unlikely to relinquish their crown without a major fight.
Last December, Chelsea won each and every match they played in December to first serve notice of their title credentials.
This December the Blues have what, on paper, appears a favourable run of matches, whereby they face a number of sides who currently occupy places in the bottom half of the Premier League table.
After their final Champions League group match with Atletico Madrid in midweek, Chelsea then face successive Premier League matches against West Ham and Huddersfield, before taking on Southampton at the Bridge.
Following that, Conte’s men face a televised trip to Everton on December 23, while the festive programme is wrapped (pun intended!) with home matches against Brighton and Stoke.
While Conte has complained about a matchday conspiracy against his side, the Blues manager would be wise to look at how the fixtures computer has given his side a genuinely kind run of games at what is deemed the most grueling and testing time of the year….
Chelsea’s response to going a goal down against Newcastle was encouraging to say the least. With this kind of grit mixed in with the unquestionable ability their side possesses, it looks like it will take something pretty special – coupled with a serious off day – to prevent them collecting either a maximum haul, or something pretty close to it, through December.
The victory against Newcastle temporarily closes the gap on runaway leaders Manchester City to eight points ahead of the Citizens match against West Ham on Sunday. While Conte will continue to batter away talk Chelsea could still have a say in the title race, the table could have a very different look come the start of 2018, especially when December throws up the small matter of games against Manchester United and Tottenham for Guardiola’s side….
Chelsea may lack the star quality or the squad depth of Manchester City, but they have a squad of winners who could find themselves having a major say yet in this season’s title race.