Up until last Friday, the Premier League looked all set to be decided by December, but what a difference a weekend makes.
Chelsea had looked like running away with the league, laying waste to all that stood before them, but Gus Poyet’s Sunderland put a spanner in the works for Jose Mourinho once again.
Mourinho’s men were left frustrated at the Stadium of Light, drawing 0-0 with a very well organised Sunderland team. The result was the first time this season that Chelsea’s plethora of attacking talent failed to find the net. The Chelsea boss felt that “only one team tried to win”, but was also very complimentary of the way that Sunderland defended.
For Poyet, it was another solid result against his former employers, having ended Jose Mourinho’s 77 game unbeaten home record last season, which spanned across the Portuguese manager’s two spells at Stamford Bridge.
After the match Poyet said, “Everybody wants to play like Bayern Munich and Barcelona but we know it is not possible for us, so we need to play the game a certain way against the top teams. Maybe not too many people were expecting that result but inside the dressing room we knew it was possible.”
The result gave Manchester City a fantastic opportunity to close the gap, but a visit to high flying Southampton on Sunday was no simple task.
City started the game very brightly, and were unlucky to have a penalty appeal turned down in the 9th minute when Sergio Aguero was flattened by Jose Fonte’s lunging tackle, which looked like a stonewall decision. Referee Mike Jones disagreed and instead booked the Argentine for simulation in what proved to be a shocking decision. It is worth noting that Mike Jones will not be officiating in the Premier League this week.
Southampton were resolute in their defending, but rarely tested the reigning champions. The changing point of the match came at half-time, when Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin was forced off with an injury, being replaced by Maya Yoshida. This caused a defensive reshuffle, with Alderweireld moving up into the midfield, disrupting a defence that had conceded just six goals in 12 games this season.
City took the lead through a deflected Yaya Toure strike from the edge of the box. Further drama followed on 74 minutes, as Eliaquim Mangala was dismissed following a second bookable offence for clipping Shane Long after some sloppy midfield work from Toure.
The dismissal gave the home fans added hope of levelling the match, but saw their team capitulate soon after. Frank Lampard added a second after 79 minutes, before Gael Clichy rounded off the win with just three minutes remaining.
These two results have once again blown the league wide open, with City trailing Chelsea by just six points. Chelsea still look a very strong and remain unbeaten, and Pellegrini knows that that his men will have to stay sharp to take advantage of any further slips by Mourinho’s Chelsea.
City know all too well that a six point lead at this stage is more than manageable, having seen many recoveries over the years. Manchester United won the league despite trailing Newcastle by 12 points at the end of January back in the 1995-96 season – a memory that sticks firm as one of the greatest recoveries in the Premier League era.
The next round of Premier League games sees City travel to Sunderland, whilst Chelsea host Spurs. City fans will hope to better Chelsea’s 0-0 draw at the Stadium of Light, and will look to Spurs for a favour.
Spurs are in decent form, winning three of the last 4 league games. For the gamblers out there, 5 of the last 6 Spurs matches have finished with a 2-1 scoreline.