Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Man City

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LONDON — Maybe Manchester City aren’t going to stroll to the title again this season…

Chelsea beat Man City 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday to not only blow the title race open but also breath new life into their own campaign. Pep Guardiola‘s injury hit City were blown away by Chelsea’s press, as the reigning champs had only trailed for 12 minutes all season long before this defeat.

Goals in each half from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz did the damage, as City were left stunned. They now trail Liverpool, who are top of the Premier League table by a point.

Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter in west London.


FIRED UP CHELSEA KEEP TITLE HOPES ALIVE

Maurizio Sarri said he was “very worried” after Chelsea’s midweek defeat to Wolves. Don’t worry, Maurizio. Things are much better now. Chelsea became the first team to defeat Manchester City in the PL this season, as the Blues beat the reigning champs at their own game on Saturday. Sarri’s men hunted in packs and showed the same hunger they had at the start of the season, as well as the clinical edge. Marcos Alonso recovered from a poor first half, Kante was back on form and so too was Jorginho.

Having Eden Hazard back to his best was a big reason why they defeated City, but Sarri slightly altering his approach paid huge dividends. Choosing to start without a recognized center forward was a masterstroke from the Italian coach, as Hazard, Willian and Pedro pushed high on City’s defenders whenever they could, aided by Kante not far behind them and often in front of them. Chelsea’s bite returned, especially in the second half, and so did their faint hopes of winning the title this season. They are still seven points behind City and eight behind leaders Liverpool, but Chelsea needed this win to prove that Sarri’s project is still moving in the right direction after two defeats from their previous three games. With this victory they also gave Tottenham, Arsenal and Liverpool hope that City can be stopped this season.


WASTEFUL CITY LOSE UNBEATEN RUN

When Guardiola decided to not start Gabriel Jesus on Saturday it sent out a message to Chelsea: we are going to toy with you. They did just that in the first half, and Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez saw plenty of the ball and created plenty of chances. They failed to take them. Sane, Sterling and Mahrez were all denied in the first half as they tried to pick the perfect pass or finish. Had Sergio Aguero or Kevin De Bruyne been on the pitch, it may well have been a different story. For just the second time this season they fired a blank (the other was at Liverpool) and it was only the fourth time in the last two seasons that City have failed to score in a game.

Yes, injuries are mounting up for Pep all over the pitch and City didn’t have a cutting edge on Saturday which shows just how important Aguero is to them. Gabriel Jesus came on early in the second half, but it was more in desperation than anything else as the goal on half time gave Chelsea all of the momentum and inspired their victory. City’s first defeat of the season came after 23 games last season. They only lost once after that on their way to a record-breaking title win. Guardiola will be hoping this defeat has the same galvanizing effect on his players this season.


CHELSEA DO NOT NEED A NO.9

For Chelsea much of the talk this season has been about whether or not they need to start Alvaro Morata or Olivier Giroud. Morata wasn’t in the 18-man squad on Saturday, while Giroud came off the bench late on. Hazard was frustrated for most of the first half in a false nine position, throwing his arms in the air when passes didn’t go his way, but with Pedro and Willian buzzing around him they gave City’s defense all kinds of problems and denied them time to play out from the back. Hazard may not enjoy playing in a central striking role, but this performance and the balance it gave Sarri suggests that Chelsea no longer need a No. 9. Playing a 4-3-3 with a false nine in certain games, especially against the top six, is the way forward for the Blues.

Dyche, Mourinho meet on the streets of London

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Two Premier League managers walk into each other while shopping: It’s not the start of a joke, even if it sounds like one.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho was out shopping earlier this week when he heard a familiar voice call his name.

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It was Burnley manager Sean Dyche, who was out shopping with his family one day after losing 5-0 to Spurs at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Dyche relayed the story Thursday while his club gets ready for a home match versus Newcastle United on Saturday, saying the pair spoke for a few minutes.

“I’ll tell you a little life story,” Dyche began at his prematch press conference.

From the Lancashire Telegraph:

“His face was actually more shocked than mine, because he was plodding along and I saw him with his hat on, and he shot his head up and said a bad word, and then said sorry, your wife and children are there!

“But he was very pleasant – as he would be after smashing us the day before. We had six or seven minutes chatting about how he’s settling, life in general, that sort of stuff. He was very pleasant.”

As Dyche points out, it’s odd that two of just 20 Premier League managers would run into each other on the streets of one of the biggest cities on Earth, especially since Burnley is quite a drive from London. Many PL personalities do live far from their adopted homes, though, and Dyche played for Millwall and played for and managed Watford.

Anyway, just a neat story for your Thursday evening.

Martinez’s impressive form could cost Inter Milan

Lautaro Martinez Inter
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MILAN (AP) Inter Milan might just lose out to Barcelona again.

The Italian club was eliminated from the Champions League following a 2-1 loss to Barcelona on Tuesday, and the Spanish club was reportedly so impressed by Lautaro Martinez’s performance that it is ready to activate the Inter forward’s 111 million euro ($123 million) release clause.

Martinez ran the Barcelona defense ragged, set up Romelu Lukaku‘s equalizer and also had two goals ruled out for offside. He also scored when the two clubs faced each other in October.

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“We are Inter Milan, with an important history – like Barcelona – and we don’t have to necessarily sell anybody,” Inter CEO Guiseppe Marotta said. “We want to grow, so we want to concentrate on our youngsters like Lautaro Martinez or Lukaku, they are interesting and young and we want to grow with them.

“But as you know, the future of a player is in their heads. If Lautaro wants to stay with us, we are happy with that, if he will be attracted by the ideas of other clubs we will evaluate the situation. At the moment he is very tied to Inter and we are proud.”

Martinez signed a contract until 2023 when he joined Inter from Racing Club last year and there is already talk of improving that deal to keep him at the club.

The Argentina forward scored nine goals for Inter last season but has exploded this campaign and has already found the back of the net 13 times in a formidable partnership with Lukaku under coach Antonio Conte.

[ MORE: Premier League storylines for the weekend ahead ]

“There is the right chemistry between them,” Marotta said. “Antonio Conte, a proven winner, knows how to get the best out of them.”

That partnership could prove crucial to keeping Martinez at the club.

“Inter is my home. I spend most of my life here and that for me matters a lot,” Martinez said. “Everyone has shown me affection from the very first day and that is fundamental for a player and a man.”

Martinez and Lukaku’s partnership has been key to Inter reaching the top of the Serie A standings. The club is two points above eight-time defending champion Juventus.

Inter visits Fiorentina on Sunday and hosts Genoa in its final match of the year.

“We can’t make the mistake of dwelling on this defeat too much,” Inter defender Cristiano Biraghi said. “It’s part of the game. We’re professionals. Sunday will be a good test of our maturity as a side.

“Florence is a difficult place to go, the atmosphere is always intense when big teams play there and the home team feed off that. They’re not on the best form and because of that they’ll want to give even more.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 17

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The Premier League Fan Fest hits Miami this weekend for what will certainly be a terrific weekend of fixtures in England’s top tier.

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We’ve got two Top Seven fixtures and a pair of resurgent sides meeting in a match-up as old as most, plus a derby down south and more.

Defense-optional at the Emirates? [STREAM]

  • Arsenal v. Manchester City, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

It’s been 13 matches since Arsenal blanked Bournemouth at the Emirates Stadium to record its second clean sheet of the Premier League season, and the Gunners still seek their third. Their visitors have conceded in 10-straight matches to dip 14 points back of league leading Arsenal. If that sounds like a recipe for an ironic 0-0, well, we wouldn’t bet on it.

Soured Cherries hope to test weary Chelsea [STREAM]

  • Chelsea v. Bournemouth, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Bournemouth upset Manchester United to pull into sixth place on Nov. 2 and have not claimed a point in the ensuing five matches. Eddie Howe‘s Cherries have found every way to lose, including losses with and against 10 men. The United defeat is their only win since a New South Coast Derby defeat of Bournemouth on Sept. 20.

The good news is that Chelsea’s red-hot form has cooled to the touch, and the Blues had to pour plenty into a 2-1 defeat of Lille in Champions League play on Tuesday. Can Bournemouth surprise the Blues at Stamford Bridge?

Mourinho’s Spurs meet rabid Wolves in top end clash [STREAM]

  • Wolves v. Tottenham Hotspur, Wednesday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Two sides fancying a Top Four run stand in each other’s way at the Molineux. Spurs rested more of their top players on Wednesday at Bayern Munich, and have one more day’s rest than Wolves. But Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men were home Thursday in a Europa League pounding of Besiktas, and are now unbeaten in nine matches across all competitions. They haven’t lost a league match since Sept. 14 versus Chelsea, an 11 match run with five wins and six draws.

Flying Red Devils tangle with wounded, ready Everton [STREAM]

  • Manchester United v. Everton, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold)

Marco Silva is gone, and Duncan Ferguson’s Toffees will be feeling like their 3-1 defeat of Chelsea is the real Everton come clean in the wash. This weekend’s test is just as tough given United’s stylish form in defeats of AZ Alkmaar, Man City, and Spurs. You’re gonna need two screens at 9 a.m. ET Sunday.

M23 Derby promises plenty [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Monday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

The Premier League weekend ends with a beauty, two rivals three points apart and sensing blood in the water on this congested table. Roy Hodgson‘s Palace is three points clear of Graham Potter‘s Seagulls, the league’s oldest managerial blood against the promise of a new era. A win keeps Palace in the thick of the Top Seven mix, while a loss puts Brighton right back in it.

Chelsea signs Tomori to new 5-year deal

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Chelsea center back Fikayo Tomori has a new five-year contract with the club.

The 21-year-old has a goal and an assist in 16 matches across all competitions, though he’s spent the past two Premier League outings on the bench.

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Tomori joined Chelsea at age 7. He made his Premier League debut 11 years later in the 2016 season finale versus Leicester City.

The Canadian-born back averages 2.3 tackles per game, with 1.7 interceptions, and 2.6 clearances in Premier League action this season.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“The club has been so good to me, looking after and developing me during that time into the player and the person I am today. It’s a dream come true to sign a new five-year contract. I’m really happy the club have shown this faith in me and I’m just excited to carry on.”

Tomori is a full England international after loan stints with Brighton and Hove Albion, Hull City, and Derby County. The latter stop found him under Frank Lampard, and certainly didn’t hurt his opportunity to shine when both arrived at Chelsea this season.

Chelsea has four strong, young center backs in Tomori, Kurt Zouma (25), Andreas Christensen (23), and Antonio Rudiger (26). Christensen and Rudiger are signed through the 2021/22 season, while Zouma’s deal goes one season longer than the duo.