The race for the English football championship may have been decided prematurely after the 22nd matchday.
Leader and defending champion Manchester City has a huge lead of 13 points after a 1-0 (0-0) win over second-placed Chelsea. Thomas Tuchel and his Blues will have to give up hope of winning the title this season.
When asked about a preliminary decision in the championship race, Tuchel kept a low profile after the defeat at the Etihad Stadium. “It’s not a question I can answer,” said the Chelsea coach on BT Sport. “We’re not going to give up, but if City keep winning every game, nobody can catch them.”
“We deserved a draw”
Kevin De Bruyne (70th minute) shot the superior Cityzens to a deserved victory in front of their home crowd. The champions were the better team overall on matchday 22, had more possession and finished more often than the visitors from London in the game with few chances. “A result like that can happen,” said Tuchel, who was annoyed at his Blues’ lack of precision, lack of composure and too many turnovers. “We deserved a draw.”
His opponent Pep Guardiola, who seemed surprisingly tense after the narrow victory, saw things differently. “We absolutely deserved it,” said the former Bayern coach, “the way we played, everything we did. And don’t forget who we played against, they are Champions League winners.”
Liverpool with two catch-up games
Both coaches had changed their teams compared to the cup games. At Chelsea, Timo Werner stayed on the bench for almost 70 minutes after the League Cup success at Tottenham Hotspur (1-0). Kepa was again in goal for the Blues because regular keeper Edouard Mendy is currently taking part in the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal. The Spaniard showed a strong performance. At Man City, Ilkay Gündogan, Gabriel Jesus and Ruben Dias were not in the starting XI after the easy FA Cup win at Swindon Town (4-1). Gundogan came on late for De Bruyne.
After the twelfth win in a row, Man City is alone at the top of the table. However, Pep Guardiola did not want to write off Liverpool in particular, who have played two games less. “If Liverpool win their two catch-up games then they will only be eight points clear,” Guardiola warned. “So my job is to make sure what people are going to say now gets out of the players’ minds.”