The Premier League was won at Stamford Bridge last season and it moved a significant step closer to being won there again last night with this result.
Chelsea delivered the title to Leicester City by drawing with Tottenham Hotspur last May but are closing in on retaking it for themselves following a defining victory over Manchester City as they completed an impressive league double over Pep Guardiola’s side.
It felt like it would be an even more emphatic evening with Spurs losing, until late on, away to Swansea City before their extraordinary turnaround. They will not go away and the title race is certainly not over, not yet – the gap remains at seven points with eight matches to play - but City’s involvement in it is.
For City it was yet another disappointing result, yet another performance where they were victims of their own downfall – complicit in both of Eden Hazard’s goals - and for all their fine attacking football they still have a lot of work to do to remain in the top four.
A pattern was set, early - City possession and Chelsea pouncing. It quickly came to fruition for the home side when they surged into the lead, over-turning the ball through Eden Hazard, spreading it wide with Cesar Azpilicueta – pushed forward as a wing-back in the absence of the injured Victor Moses – cutting it back for Hazard who struck a first-time shot that brushed against Vincent Kompany. It was a blur.
Goalkeeper Willy Caballero was wrong-footed but, still, the ball was not taken far enough away for him not to save and his effort was weak as he was beaten. Chelsea were ahead.
Should Kompany have got more on it (he seemed to mis-time a header)? Caballero certainly should and, yet again, a City familiar weakness that has to be remedied this summer was brutally exposed.
Kompany was a surprise inclusion, making his first start in the league since November, as was Fabian Delph in midfield, making his first league start of the season in fact, as Guardiola rung the changes and attempted – maybe – to provide a bit more power to his team.
Instead both Kompany and Delph appeared off-the-pace, initially at least, for such a significant match but City attempted to hit back as Thibaut Courtois dealt with Fernandinho’s crisp shot from the area’s edge and David Luiz reacting to thwart Sergio Aguero who then worked his way through to shoot low only for his effort to be easily saved by Courtois. Aguero punched the turf in frustration.
There was obviously a scent of more goals and so back came Chelsea with Hazard breaking down the left to pick out Cesc Fabregas whose shot deflected of Gael Clichy, gently looping over Caballero and landing on the roof of the net. That was close.
Incredibly City – given their own defensive woes – were gifted an equaliser with Courtois chipping the ball straight to David Silva who ran into the area, shot, with the goalkeeper parrying and Aguero pouncing ahead of N’Golo Kante to side-foot home. Two of the best attacking teams had scored through two goalkeeping howlers.
City suddenly felt re-energised and broke again with Silva slipping the ball through to Leroy Sane who attempted to lift it over the onrushing Courtois - who blocked with his leg. But then, at the other end, another error, a rash challenge by Fernandinho, clumsily bringing down Pedro as he cut across him inside the area led to another goal. The penalty was rightly awarded and Hazard took it only for Caballero to save, superbly, down to his left. However the rebound returned to Hazard who side-footed into the net.
City had it all to do again and Courtois was almost caught out by a whipped cross by De Bruyne only for the goalkeeper to adjust and punch it over the cross-bar.
With Kurt Zouma replaced at half-time Chelsea moved Pedro back to wing-back. It then became a case of whether Chelsea could get the ball to Hazard, up against Jesus Navas, or City could find Sane. The vulnerabilities were evident.
And it was the visitors who continued to dominate possession with Kompany reaching a free-kick, heading back into the six-yard area and Azpilicueta reacting to clear before it could be turned home.
Soon after and Delph hooked the ball back into the area with it being met by Fernandinho who elected to volley, when it could have taken it down, and ballooned over. The flag stayed down even though the midfielder was in an offside position. It was a bad miss by player (and assistant referee).
Chelsea dropped ever deeper. Guardiola became ever more animated – especially when Silva was caught in the face by Kante with De Bruyne’s clever low free-kick finding Sane who stumbled as he appeared set to go clear on goal. From a corner John Stones planted his header straight at Courtois. He should, also, have done better.
In a rare Chelsea breakaway, Hazard then went close to completing his hat-trick. He side-footed over. Could City capitalise?
In injury-time substitute Nolito chipped a superb cross that was met by Aguero only for Courtois to block. From the corner the ball ran through to Stones. The goal beckoned – but he volleyed over.
City have been close this season but not close enough. Chelsea, meanwhile, move ever closer to the title.
How Chelsea won
Time on ball (at full time)
Average touch positions (full time)
90 mins +3
Kante fouls Silva are a fair distance from goal, it's a booking. This could be City's last chance... and it's a corner.
The corner is played short... backwards... sideways... backwards... and then a dreadful pass to Aguero. AND THAT'S IT!
90 mins +2
SO CLOSE AGUERO! Clichy puts in a great nutmeg on Pedro, finds Nolito, Nolito looks up and spots Aguero at the far post and finds him with a superb chipped pass but the striker can't turn the ball past the keeper.
AND STONES MUST SCORE! MISS! OHHHHHH so close for City again! Stones has a tap in, on the volley, and it's not an easy chance at all, but from the corner Stones has put the ball over the bar.
Hazard comes off for the final few minutes and Loftus-Cheek replaces him. Chelsea still dealing with everything City throw at them.
For half a second it looks like City might be able to break but the forward pass to... I think Delph, is badly controlled and Chelsea win it straight back. Nolito is on for Sane but it really looks like Conte has masterminded a victory. Not long to go!
Hazard sprints to reach a loose ball near the penalty area, Kompany is beaten to it with a 30 yard head start and brings Hazard down. Chelsea keep the ball from the free-kick and have City pinned back - it's like a net the way they surround City's defence and they have no way out.
AGUERRRRO... wide of the post! The ball drops to him wide of the six yard box and he tries to drill a low ball across the area but hits the side netting.
Willian is coming on for Fabregas, which will give Chelsea even more on the counter-attack. Chelsea are sitting with nine players behind the ball, Costa standing high up the pitch, and Hazard and Willian the only ones allowed to go forward. There's no room in Chelsea's half for City to play into.
Raheem Sterling is getting ready to come on now for Kevin De Bruyne. City keep giving the ball away with their passing.
It should be 3-1. City's defence are pulled out of shape by quick, sharp Chelsea passing until Hazard blazes over from inside the area.
Delph has been booked for a foul on the right wing, Chelsea pass it backwards.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
David Luiz hits the wall with one of his trademark weird side foot free-kicks. Incidentally, you can score long range super strikes with him on Fifa 17 if you try hard enough.
Costa is lucky to get away with putting his studs into Kompany's knees but because he sits on the floor and acts all innocent, no further action is taken. To be fair it looked pretty innocuous.
Chelsea are defending so well here - City can't really get close to them at the moment.
Pedro goes forward, loses the ball and City attack down the left. Instead of the passive attempts by Pedro to get back into position against Crystal Palace, this time he is absolutely racing back and Chelsea do well to only give away a corner.
Glenn Hoddle keeps going "in the first half City were always attacking down the right but now it's all down the left," and doesn't seem to know why. They did it in the first half because Hazard wasn't doing any defending and in the second half the right-back is Pedro, who isn't a defender. It makes perfect sense!
Guardiola is going semi-mental on the touchline, descending into mock laughter as he calls out a couple of odd decisions from the referee. Bobby Madley, fourth official tonight, finds the whole thing funny and now Conte is out to share an embrace with Guardiola. Entertainment all over the shop tonight.
Really clever idea from De Bruyne from the free-kick. He waits for Sane to run from deep around the wall then plays a low pass into the area into him but Sane can't control it and the chance goes begging.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Chelsea are sitting deep and waiting for City to attack them. Only Hazard and Costa are sitting higher and it's slowing down City's build up play. Kante and Matic knock Silva over and give City a free-kick in a dangerous area.
"You've got to be able to defend. In this league, particularly," says Glenn Hoddle because the Premier League truly is the only league in the world where you have to defend. Forget the great teams to come out of Serie A, ignore the defensive solidity and speed of counter attack in the Bundesliga - in the Premier League, Guardiola needs to learn about defending.
That is a massive miss for Fernandinho. A free-kick curled towards the back post, Delph hooks the ball over his head into the box and Fernandinho follows it in. He looks a yard offside but the flag stays down! The shot is skied way over.
Clichy has started the half badly, giving the ball away and ruining an attacking move and now clearing Pedro out near the box. Yellow card.
City are playing on the front foot, pressing high up the pitch. Kompany spots Costa moving into space and runs across to slide tackle him before it becomes a problem.
Delph catches Fabregas, who goes down screaming "AAAARRRGGGHHHHH" right in front of the dugout. Aaaaand he's back up and running again.
Kompany hits the bar! What a weird one! A free-kick from distance is curled to the back post, Kompany heads it and the ball loops over the keeper's head and hits the cross bar. Strange defending from Chelsea there.
And we're back!
Half time subs
Nemanja Matic on, Kurt Zouma off. Will that be a change in shape for Chelsea? It looks like Pedro has moved to right wing-back...
The role of the goalkeeper
So here's something to think about. I'm not a goalkeeper. I know, I know - I shouldn't put myself down - but even at fives I am useless. However - at the professional level, what makes a great save? Caballero saved that penalty - good - but parried the ball directly back to Hazard - bad.
@jj_bull Depends- If you've parried it away from goal into a normally safe area and the defenders failed to mark the striker then you're not at fault
— Jack Tanner (@JackT_Media) April 5, 2017
To me it's as if he's only done half the job of an elite level goalie. To my memory someone like Peter Schmeichel would've got the shot away and not simply been in the way of it.
@jj_bull From a pen I'd say any save is good. Open play, control the direction of parry.
— Nev (@elnev) April 5, 2017
And Courtois' save for Silva's shot was good, low at the near post and took a lot of power out of it... but he pushed the ball directly into the middle of his box, in the middle of his goal. Doesn't that make it a bad save?
@jj_bull Depends on the difficulty, if you pull off a spectacular one-handed dream (phrasing) then it can be forgiven.
— Andy Vale (@AndyVale) April 5, 2017
Answers on a postcard (or tweet).
Time on ball (first half)
Average touch positions (half time)
45 mins +1
Hazard taking his free role to heart and walking around the City half. It's a bit like what Messi does for Barca, saving his energy for attacking bits of play rather than drain it by constantly chasing defenders. Makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Hazard has started floating around the pitch wherever he likes now and takes it in the centre of the park to start a little move. Silva takes out Pedro with a slide tackle but Pedro gets straight back up.
Luiz gets the first part of his Aguero revenge by shoving the striker towards the advertising boards. Aguero manages to slow down before flying over them.
Aguero goes close with a shot but it's just wide:
Glenn Hoddle has pointed out that City are attacking down the right a lot because Hazard isn't doing any defending.
Chelsea are back in front again - Eden Hazard makes it 2-1.
Hazard's first shot is saved but Caballero parries into Hazard's feet. I can't tell if that's bad goalkeeping or not but regardless, Hazard places the follow up into the back of the net.
Yep. No doubts about this one. Pedro shifts his weight onto the right shoulder inside the box, nutmegs Fernandinho and gets put it in the bin. A clear penalty.
This is a nice move from City. The player on the ball moves forward, passes, then moves into space while another takes his position. It's really fluid and causing all sorts of problems for the Chelsea defence.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
What a ball! Courtois saves superbly from Sane as the German is played clean through on goal with a defence splitting pass.
Costa is wound up because he's accidentally dragged Delph to the ground off the ball and is angry with Delph because this has made Costa fall to the floor. Delph tries to help him off the ground but Costa angrily, petulantly, slaps his hand away in front of the referee - there's no need for it at all - and even worse is that Hazard was one on one with Stones by the penalty area.
1-1: Sergio Agüero scores the leveller for Man City.
This is an absolute disaster for Thibaut Courtois. He takes the ball onto his RIGHT FOOT (I can only say that like the commentator from ISS 64) and kicks it straight onto Silva's chest. Silva comes forward, gets into the box and shoots from a tight angle, and Courtois saves but parries the ball straight into Aguero's feet for a tap in.
Aguero goes down under a challenge and stays there clutching his ankle but the referee is clear that there was no foul. City consider passing the ball out of play but instead just stand with it near the touchline... and Aguero gets up. Remarkably, he has made a full recovery inside 45 seconds.
Man City failing to make their possession pay
The visitors have had the majority of the ball - but still they trail to Chelsea.
So close for Fabregas! Hazard is magical down that left wing, holds off a tackle from Fernandinho and the Brazilian bounces away. The pass to Fabregas sets up a shot, but it's deflected and nearly lands over Caballero's head and into the goal. This time it drops on the top of the net.
And now Fernandinho has taken a shot from 25 yards but Courtois isn't troubled at all. Kante gets the ball on the left, is instantly surrounded and then plays an absolutely brilliant chipped, dinked pass over an attempted tackle and keeps a Chelsea move going. Nobody on commentary seems to care but I loved that.
Chelsea are sat back in numbers, really narrow, and City's passing is slow. Until all of a sudden they burst through the middle of Chelsea as Luiz comes flying out of position! Aguero springs to life and has a shot saved low - that was a great little move!
Delph tries to shoot from 25 yards and it doesn't end well, Chelsea are sitting deeper now and allowing City to pass themselves out of the game.
This plays into Chelsea's strengh - the counter-attack - and City's weakness, which is having all the ball and never making the right decision.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
City try and react straight away but as they get men forward for an attack, Aguero shoots from distance and is blocked. Guardiola looks almost drained such is his frustration with this City tea mat the moment.
Man City respond
The visitors have their first shot of the game, in reply to two so far from Chelsea.
Chelsea take an early lead and they have Eden Hazard to thank for it: 1-0.
Hmmmm I think Caballero should do slightly better with the save here but the deflection off Kompany's head took the ball past him. Kompany turns the ball in with a little flick off the head but Hazard should have been followed into the box and the shot blocked before he did. Caballero lets the ball past his hand.
Silva is hovering around Kante in midfield and darts onto a loose pass from the midfielder, finding Aguero for a counter-attack in Chelsea's half. Aguero tries to play a pass back to his right but it's too close to the goalkeeper and Chelsea get it back easily.
Sane waits for the forwards to make their runs before crossing from wide left, but takes too long and the ball runs out of play. Pedro gets away from Delph and Alonso has the entire left of the pitch to run into if Pedro can make the pass. Pedro spots him, tries to get the ball there... but it comes off a defender and City clear.
Fernandinho and Navas are a little defensive team on the right. Hazard gets past them thanks to an Alonso chipped pass, he finds Costa outside the box and Costa tries a Ronaldinho poke towards the top corner but hits it on the instep and places the shot way wide.
So City have a four man midfield when on the ball, with Aguero, Sane and Silva switching positions fluidly up front.
Delph has given the ball away to Hazard near the halfway line but City fall into their defensive shape quickly. Navas seems to be in charge of dealing with danger on the left.
We're underway at Stamford Bridge. I can't wait to find out what weird formation City are using.
Here come the players
It's time for soccer!
We're gonna play football SOCCER! football SOCCER! football SOCCER all around the world!
Stamford Bridge looking tidy
Must win for Man City
If City manage to win this tonight, it really could knock the Chelsea train off the rails. They had a wobble with that Palace defeat but this could properly do them in. If I've learned anything from playing a lot of Football Manager, it is that just because you are top with only a few games to go, it does not mean you will win.
Can City win the league, Kevin De Bruyne?
"Hmmm. It will be difficult but nothing is impossible until it's done."
The managers have their say
"Yeh [Kompany] had the last three weeks, month training with us and it's a long time since he played but [he's ready].
"The way we have to defend, to play today, we need [Delph]."
"I think I decide for this starting XI because there is still a miss of Moses and we finish the game with some problems for some players."
Vincent Kompany raring to go
"I fancied this one but you know I've prepared the best I could and I'm looking forward to it. It's a big game. Really happy to be involved.
"I don't think we've thought about it, I can tell you we've prepared a lot on our game and things that haven't gone well. They're incredibly good on the counter-attack, on set pieces, players who can make things out of nothing and we'll do the best we can."
I wrote a scouting report for Man City and how they can beat Chelsea. You can read the whole thing here, but below is a bit of it.
Focus play down the left
A Nigerian shaped spanner was thrown in the works before the Palace game, with Victor Moses - so impressive in his new right wing-back position this season, injured. With no natural replacement, Sam Allardyce focused his team's counter-attacks down the left to target Chelsea's new makeshift wing-back, Pedro.
Pedro is not a defender.
He is also never the favourite to win aerial challenges, which is why a long ball played high towards his position, lead to Palace's first goal. Azpilicueta came out to attack the header, Palace won the second ball.
With both Pedro and Azpilicueta now out of position, David Luiz needed to react, and he did so by moving towards the run of Andros Townsend on the left, leaving his central defensive position vacant.
Chelsea won the ball back in the corner but with Luiz now on the right of defence, once Pedro's dreadful forward pass was cut out by Palace's high press, Chelsea's defence were disorganised and in trouble.
Wilfried Zaha did superbly to hold off defenders and finish low into the corner of Thibaut Courtois' goal, but this kind of chaos is exactly what Conte's five man defence is designed to eradicate.
Moses isn't the greatest defender in the world but he is far better suited to the right wing-back position than Pedro - if Moses is not fit for the Man City game, Guardiola's players can exploit this weakness.
A video with stats in it
Team news - big changes for both
What a tactical battle we have on our hands! The big news for Chelsea is that Pedro is now a forward again, with the experiment of having him at right wing-back proving an absolute failure. Instead, Azpilicueta is the RWB, with Zouma - a strong headerer of the ball (I don't think that's a word, but we're going with it). This is to deal with a specific threat I'll deal with in the next post.
Team to face Man City: Courtois; Zouma, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. #CHEMCI
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 5, 2017
Courtois; Zouma, David Luiz, Cahill; Azpilicueta, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
And even more switches for Man City. Vincent Kompany is back! And boy to City need him. Otamendi was atrocious against Arsenal and the back three/four were definitely going to concede with him in the team. The other big change is that Fabian Delph is in and Raheem Sterling is out! City looking to control the midfield - I'd expect Delph to be charged with taking N'Golo Kante out of the game and for this to look more like a 3-4-2-1 than a 3-4-3 or 4-1-4-1 like City think it is.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) April 5, 2017
Caballero; Clichy, Stones, Kompany; Navas, Fernandinho, Delph, Sane; Silva, De Bruyne; Aguero
Hello everyone and welcome to this liveblog! Tonight's match could be an absolute belter... Chelsea would gain a big advantage by just getting a draw but City's defence is so poor that they have to have a go. And City's attacking options are superb to watch just now. But who will win!?
Team news in a minute!
When and where is the match?
It's on Wednesday, April 5, at Stamford Bridge.
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
BT Sport 1 from 7.15pm.
What is the team news?
Victor Moses is an injury doubt. The right wing-back missed Saturday's loss to Crystal Palace with a toe injury and is one of "two or three situations" to be monitored before the City match.
Eden Hazard played against Palace following a calf injury which saw him miss international duty with Belgium, while David Luiz is still managing a knee injury sustained against City in December.
Provisional squad: Courtois, Begovic, Fabregas, Zouma, Alonso, Kante, Hazard, Loftus-Cheek, Moses, Pedro, Costa, Matic, Willian, Batshuayi, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Luiz, Eduardo, Aina, Ake.
Manchester City will be without right-back Bacary Sagna for Wednesday's Premier League trip to leaders Chelsea.
The France international could be out for a further three weeks with a groin strain suffered while on international duty last month.
Striker Gabriel Jesus (foot) is back in training but not yet ready to return while midfielder Ilkay Gundogan (knee) remains on the sidelines.
Provisional squad: Caballero, Bravo, Zabaleta, Kompany, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Clichy, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure, Delph, Sane, Silva, Sterling, De Bruyne, Nolito, Navas, Aguero, Iheanacho.
Any further news?
Gabriel Jesus has returned to training with City seven weeks after breaking a bone in his foot.
The Brazil striker underwent surgery after fracturing a metatarsal in City's Premier League victory at Bournemouth in February.
Manager Pep Guardiola said last week Jesus - who turned 20 on Monday - was ready to resume some form of training and the club have now confirmed he has done some "light ball work".
Jesus's progress raises hopes he could return to action before the end of the season. It was initially feared he may not play again this term.
A report on the club's website confirmed the player "stepped up his recovery from injury today when he returned to the training field for the first time since February".
Jesus made a big impact after joining the club from Palmeiras in January, scoring three goals in five appearances and displacing Sergio Aguero from the side.
Pick your teams
Chelsea v Man City in numbers
4 - Red cards in the last five league fixtures between the two clubs - including the fixture at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, when Fernandinho and Sergio Aguero were both shown red in stoppage time.
16 - Goals in the last four meetings in all competitions, with both teams winning two games each.
2013-14 - The last time Chelsea did the league double over City.
7 - Sergio Aguero has scored seven goals against Chelsea, with six of those coming in his last seven appearances against the London side - including his hat-trick last season at Stamford Bridge. He is one goal away from matching the haul of Frank Lampard, who scored seven in the fixture for Chelsea before netting an 85th-minute equaliser against his former club in 2014 for City.
6 - Even after losing to Crystal Palace, Chelsea have only dropped six points at Stamford Bridge all season, their other defeat coming back in September when they lost 2-1 to Liverpool.
10 - The number of goals Chelsea have conceded at Stamford Bridge in the league so far this season. City, though, have scored 10 goals in their last four away league games.
2014-15 - The last time there was a draw in the fixture. Both games that season ended in 1-1 draws, two of only seven in the 39 Premier League meetings between the clubs.
116 - Goals scored between the two teams in the Premier League so far this season. Chelsea just edge it with 60 goals, compared to City's 56.
Premier League standings
What are they saying?
Chelsea striker Diego Costa
"Now is not the time to let ourselves down. We should keep our heads up and think ahead for the next game since it will be very important.
"This game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win... they will (effectively) be out of the title race while we keep the advantage."
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte
"It's normal with 27 points available that anything can happen in the league. We need 21 points to win the league mathematically. I think we are in a really good position.
"Nobody thought that Chelsea could fight this season for the title, but we stay there. We stay there and we want to keep this position.
"We know there are many teams that want to win the league, but it's normal this. I hope that who wins this league will deserve to win the league."
What are the best odds?
Chelsea to win 7/5
Manchester City to win 21/10
What is our prediction?
From seemingly strolling towards the title Chelsea suddenly face a major test of their credentials. Saturday's shock home defeat by Crystal Palace, and Tottenham's win at Burnley, cut the Blues' lead from 10 points to seven.
Seven points is still a pretty healthy advantage in anyone's book, but City are capable of defeating anybody on their day, even Chelsea, and if that happens their lead could be shrunk even further if Tottenham defeat Swansea away on the same night. As things stand, this match looks too close to call.
Predicted score: Chelsea 2 Man City 2