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At halfway point of season, Chelsea’s battle for the top four is only beginning

Chelsea v Watford - Premier League Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Manchester City continue to winning games and setting records and running not only away with the league but completely out of sight of the chasing pack. Even second place Manchester United are more than a dozen points behind them, and alongside Chelsea, are the only teams that are less than 20 points behind Pep’s rampant rapscallions.

City extended their lead with a Premier League record 17th win over the weekend, making short work of hapless AFC Bournemouth, against whom even Chelsea managed to score more than one goal recently. City scored four, which puts them on exactly 60 goals and thus on pace to break Chelsea’s Premier League record of 103 (set by Ancelotti’s title-winning squad in 2009-10).

While mathematically the title race is not over, for all intents and purposes, barring some major catastrophe, it is. The 2017-18 Premier League trophy will go to Manchester City; it’ll be their first title in four seasons, collecting a well-earned and well-financed reward for their efforts.

But elsewhere, the race is only starting. The bottom eight teams are separated by just six points, for example, while the the top six other than City are within eight points of each other.

Chelsea’s disappointing 0-0 draw at Everton will probably go down as a missed opportunity, but one that, at least for now, has not causing any actual damage to Chelsea’s top-four campaign. Liverpool and Arsenal played out an hilarious 3-3 draw the night before, and Manchester United somehow managed to also drop two points against 10-man Leicester City. A late-late equalizer from Harry Maguire, who once played well enough against Chelsea (for Hull City) to generate immediate transfer rumors, was enough to cancel out a brace from Juan Mata, who’s more red than blue these days.

Like Conte, Mourinho was made to reflect on his side’s inability to properly finish chances ... in classic Mourinho style of course. If José never has to play Leicester away again, he probably won’t complain.

"We didn't win because we missed incredible chances, I would say joke chances, and then in the last second of the game we make a big defensive mistake.

“It is an accumulation of mistakes in an easy match to win. The team was playing well and in the second half, the result should have been four, five, six. But the reality is that it is 2-2. Sometimes you make mistakes and you are not punished, but we were punished. We were punished by our mistakes, what more can I say? It was an easy match to win, but when you miss big chances in front of goal and not only that but also childish loss of possession then you are punished at the end.

"It was childish in their box and childish in our box and it was mistakes plus mistakes and we lost two points in an easy match to win."

-José Mourinho; source: Sky

With United only three points ahead of Chelsea in second, there will be chances aplenty for further post-match meltdowns, hopefully.

For Chelsea, solidifying this position and ensuring we finish in the top four is now the no.1 objective for the season. Sure, League Cup semifinals (two-legged versus Arsenal) and the Champions League Round of 16 (two-legged versus Barcelona), not to mention the FA Cup that’s set to get underway for Chelsea in early January, will be important, but we must ensure that we don’t miss the Champions League again as the minimum baseline achievement.

The league is halfway done, the league is only just starting. It’s a race that’s impossible to call and will need all the hard work, all the paying attention, all the personality and commitment that can be mustered.


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