Chelsea’s goalless draw at Sunderland gave Manchester City the chance to close the gap on the Premier League leaders and even going down to 10 men and without a goal from their usual talisman, Sergio Aguero, they took it by virtue of an impressive win over Southampton.
The Saints went into the fixture a place above the defending champions but, crucially, with only a two-point advantage. The result means City are now officially Chelsea’s nearest challengers, six points behind the league leaders and with a feeling of momentum growing. The midweek round of fixtures could provide City with another opportunity to narrow the distance on Jose Mourinho’s side.
City follow in Chelsea’s footsteps with a trip to Sunderland on Wednesday while at the same time Chelsea host Tottenham Hotspur in a London derby. They’ll do so without the suspended Diego Costa who, like Aguero, failed to score this weekend. But City can at least call on the Argentine at the Stadium of Light – as well as Gael Clichy, one of this week’s highest point-scorers in EuroFantasyLeague.
It goes to show that even without a goal, you can’t keep Aguero quiet. He also claimed an assist for Yaya Toure and rarely goes two matches without scoring. Sunderland, you have been warned.
Wearside hasn’t always been a comfortable place for City to go, though. Their record at the Stadium of Light is poor – a 1-0 defeat was the outcome when the teams met there last November, Aguero playing but not scoring – and Gus Poyet’s team are more like the hard-to-beat unit from the start of the season than the shambles embarrassed by Southampton in October.
Chelsea have won this season without Costa’s goals and coped manfully when the Spain striker returned unfit from international duty, but they couldn’t get past a result Black Cats. The point was no less than Sunderland deserved and Tottenham will have a spring in their step after their convincing win over Everton on Sunday. Spurs have also generally been better away from home this season, although that won’t necessarily translate to Stamford Bridge.
It promises to be a pivotal round of games with regards to the destination of the title. It’s still too early to say these results will decide who comes out on top in May but with the Christmas and New Year period looming, there’s a huge difference for City in being three points adrift as opposed to six. A slip for either wide will have ramifications felt long past the final whistle. City go to Chelsea at the end of January and the scene is already being set for that titanic battle.
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