With Chelsea’s win over Manchester City moving Liverpool into first place and blowing the title race wide open, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the major talking points from the game at Stamford Bridge.
#5. Morata dropped and Jesus benched as no strikers make the cut
Following Sergio Aguero’s injury, Gabriel Jesus was expected to lead the line for Manchester City at Stamford Bridge but the team-sheet confirmed that the Brazilian had to make do with a place on the bench, Pep Guardiola instead opting for a pacy front three of Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez.
While the Spaniard is famed for rotating his line-up with regularity, what drew even more eyeballs was Maurizio Sarri’s decision to leave Alvaro Morata out of the squad altogether, fielding a similar front three of Pedro, Willian and Eden Hazard.
He justified his decision in the pre-match talk by emphasizing his belief that his team would have more space than usual to operate – hence the additional midfielder, although whether City would indeed afford them the space remained to be seen.
#4. City start brightly, leaving Chelsea miles behind
While not as poor as their start against Spurs at Wembley, Chelsea started on the back-foot against City too, Sterling and Sane squandering clear early opportunities to put City ahead.
Despite getting off the hook early on, Chelsea very rarely looked like staging a resurgence in the first half.
City pressed every ball with vigor and the possession stats backed that up – skewed heavily in the favor of the visitors. It all looked to be going their way before Chelsea produced a breakthrough with their first shot on target, much to the chagrin of Pep Guardiola and his side.
#3. Kante exorcises Wembley ghost with goal before half-time
Following Chelsea’s disastrous display against Tottenham against Wembley, much was made of Maurizio Sarri’s continued persistence with playing N’Golo Kante in front of Jorginho, a question that the Italian emphatically answered in the aftermath of the match by saying that he wouldn’t ever play the French midfielder in Jorginho’s position.
He even went as far as asking the French midfielder to improve, with critics panning him throughout the week – continuing to suggest a positional change for Kante as the answer to Chelsea’s midfield conundrum.
The Frenchman, however, answered the naysayers with a well taken goal just before halftime, although it was, in truth, completely against the run of play.
Latching on to Hazard’s cut-back, Kante rifled a shot into the top left-hand side of the goal to give Chelsea the lead with their first shot on target of the game, putting all questions about his position to bed – at least for the time being.
#2. David Luiz scores late on to put the game to bed
Chelsea picked up where they left off at the end of the first-half, Willian coming close with a free-kick early on, following which City put the home side under a spell of sustained pressure with a string of corners in quick succession.
The game went into a lull for a short while, both sides failing to create any clear-cut chances as Chelsea went compact, before David Luiz rose high to head in what was Chelsea’s first corner of the game, sending Stamford Bridge into delirium and Pep Guardiola into a visible fit of rage over what he believed was an unfairly awarded corner to the home side.
#1. Liverpool the big winners as Chelsea move back into top four
Having played the entire lot of ‘big-six’ sides, many people tipped City to go the season unbeaten if they negotiated the trip away to Chelsea at the Bridge.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Maurizio Sarri’s men instead blew the title race wide open with their win against City, moving Liverpool into first while reclaiming their own position back in the top four.
City could still find themselves in first place at the end of the next matchday, however, with Liverpool hosting a resurgent Manchester United at home, only four days after their crucial Champions League decider against Napoli at Anfield.