Premier League title chasers Chelsea played host to Manchester City in arguably the biggest match of the midweek round which ended up being quite an eventful affair.
The Blues have clinched an important victory which puts them one step closer to crossing the finish line and here are the five things we learned at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night:
Premier League title race as good as over
Eight games to go until the end of the Premier League season, Chelsea sit comfortably at the top with a seven-point lead in front of Tottenham and seem to be on road to wrapping the title.
Chelsea have been really professional against Manchester City, putting in a mentally stable performance after a disappointing loss against Crystal Palace.
The Blues entered the game storming, grabbing the lead through Hazard after only ten minutes and although Sergio Aguero managed to level the score four minutes prior to the half-hour mark, Eden Hazard made sure his team get on the front foot before the half-time break.
City have been on top for the best part of the second half, but it failed to translate into too many chances for Pep Guardiola’s men, as Chelsea went on to adopt a pragmatic defensive approach to guard their lead until the end of the match.
The Blues attempted to hit Citizens on breaks and ended up being somewhat fortunate in the dying moments of the game when Stones missed a golden opportunity from inside the box, but brave Blues deserved for Lady Luck to smile to them in the end after that unlucky and unfortunate blow against Palace.
Chelsea can’t afford to lose Eden Hazard
The Belgian superstar Eden Hazard has this season reafirmed his world-class reputation with a string of top-notch performances for Chelsea. Hazard has been in superb form throughout the title-chasing campaign and the most constant performer in Antonio Conte’s side.
The 26-year-old has made 28 Premier League starts for the Blues this season, contributing with 13 goals to this date, including his brace in the Wednesday’s matchup against Manchester City.
The Belgium midfielder has been a huge influence for his side however, as he also made five assists for his teammates and contributed to countless attacks and goal chances for the Blues.
With Real Madrid reportedly interested in bringing him to Santiago Bernabeu this summer and apparently prepared to smash the £89 world-record fee united paid for Paul Pogba to get Hazard, Chelsea are facing a big challenge.
The Blues simply can’t afford to lose such an influential player who has such a great impact to Chelsea’s play.
Guardiola needs to sort out goalkeepers’ issue
Goalkeeper’s position has been the burning issue for Pep Guardiola ever since his arrival and the infamous breakdown in relationship with Joe Hart, who was unwilling to change his style and reinvent himself to his manager’s liking.
The Catalan tactician has moved on to bring Claudio Bravo from his former club Barcelona, but that move is turning out to be a failure as Bravo keeps struggling to hold down the starting berth at Manchester City.
Wilfredo Caballero was the one who benefited most from Manchester City’s goalkeeping conundrum as the Argentine shot stopper went from unwanted to crucial.
Years on the margin have still left a big mark on the City’s now first-choice keeper, who made a big error in judgement at Eden Hazard’s opening goal when he failed to block the Belgian’s shot which did not seem to be too strong of an effort in the first place.
The Argentine attempted to make amends for his mistake with the penalty kick, as he saved Hazard’s initial shot from the spot, but the ball bounced back to the Belgian leaving Caballero helpless on the goal line.
Manchester City have been rumoured to be after Benfica’s No.1 Ederson Moraes, who could go on to become the most expensive goalkeeper since Gianluigi Buffon. The Citizens have apparently opened talks with the Portuguese powerhouse and the transfer is believed to be close to realization.
Jesus Navas the poor victim of mispositioning
The Spanish midfielder has got the energy and speed required to be a good right-back, but that pretty much wraps it for him in that position.
Jesus Navas lacks defensive talent to fill in a deficient defensive position and despite not that bad of a start in unnatural position for him at Arsenal, he has struggled dearly being played out of position on Wednesday night.
Navas is an attack-minded player and with him being caught upfield in several situations it was exactly at that time that Chelsea’s goal chances came.
John Stones attempted to scream his way into the Spaniard’s head, but his efforts were left without effect as it was Navas’ mistake that led to the penalty. With Navas upfield it was Fernandinho who was left to cover up for the Spaniard’s mistakes, overdoing it however and ultimately costing Manchester City a point or even more.
What’s there to improve at Chelsea?
Antonio Conte is proving to be an alchemist as he has gone on to transform his team into a tightly organized unit of players who seem to be playing above their capabilities under the Italian manager.
Jose Mourinho had mostly the same squad at his disposal at Chelsea, but a huge difference in quality performances is indicative and works in Antonio Conte’s favour to a great extent.
The Blues have had their ups and downs, luck would serve them and turn its back on them – such was the case against Crystal Palace last time out – and one can’t help but ask in which way could Conte upgrade his team for next season.
Defensively tight with reborn David Luiz and solid Gary Cahill, Chelsea boast the rock-solid midfield with impenetrable Kante and Matic, who give plenty of freedom for Eden Hazard to do what he does best – play without worrying whether there is anyone out there to watch his back.
The frontline possibly remains the only department that could use some tweaking and improvement. Diego Costa seems to be losing his touch a bit and the Spaniard is thought to be already thinking about the big Chinese bucks waiting for him in the summer.
Michy Batshuayi has failed to impose himself as valuable solution and Antonio Conte is likely to make a move in the market to boost his forward line. Alvaro Morata has been mentioned as a possibility, former Blues boy Romelu Lukaku as well, while Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez would perhaps be the most suitable option to fit the style of play Antonio Conte is trying to impose at Stamford Bridge.
CHELSEA: Courtois 7 – Zouma 6 (Matic 6.5), Luiz 7.5, Cahill 7 – Azpilicueta 7, kante 7.5, Fabregas 6.5 (Willian 6), Alonso 6.5 – Pedro 7, Hazard 8.5(Loftus-Cheek -) – Costa 6.5
Unused subs: Ake, Batshuayi, Begovic, Terry.
MANCHESTER CITY: Caballero 6.5 – Navas 5.5, Kompany 6.5, Stones 7, Clichy 6.5 – Fernandinho 6.5, Delph 6.5 – De Bruyne 7 (Sterling 6.5), Silva 7, Sane 6.5 (Nolito 6) – Aguero 7
Unused subs: Kolarov, Bravo, Fernando, Toure, Zabaleta.