Manchester City will attempt to keep their place atop the Premier League table and avoid a letdown on Sunday against visiting Chelsea, after sealing a place in the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League.
City (9-2-0, 27 points) secured their passage with a 3-0 win at Young Boys in Switzerland on Tuesday, keeping their record perfect in Group G.
And while it was a largely expected accomplishment for the tournament’s defending champions, manager Pep Guardiola said it was still important for his squad to enjoy the moment.
“I said to the players to celebrate because one day maybe we won’t be there,” Guardiola said. “If we stop doing what we do or the opponents are better than us, we won’t be there. What you did in the past doesn’t mean you can’t go down, and the down is always there. If you are aware of that, you are closer to being consistent in Europe for many years.”
But the win came at a cost — specifically the exit of influential defender John Stones, who aggravated an unspecified injury and will be out for the near future.
In better news, Erling Haaland overcame an injury doubt to score twice in the win. It was his second brace in as many matches against the Swiss side, while he took his total in the league to 11 goals after another brace in a win over Manchester United two weekends ago.
Meanwhile, Blues manager Mauricio Pochettino will hope Nicolas Jackson’s hat trick in Monday’s 4-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur will help jumpstart the Senegal international’s Premier League career.
Jackson scored all three of those for Chelsea (4-4-3, 15 points) in the 75th minute or later against a Spurs side that played with only nine men for the final 35 minutes plus stoppage time, bringing his league total to five.
Chelsea’s results have still been inconsistent in the early days of Pochettino’s tenure. But they’ve mostly succeeded in their matches against clubs near the top of the table — drawing Arsenal and Liverpool, and defeating Spurs and Brighton. And that means the Argentine believes his side should go to Manchester trying to impose their will on the game.
“Chelsea is never the feeling of the underdog,” Pochettino said. “The feeling always is you are Chelsea. When you say Chelsea, it is impossible, the history is there. I think we cannot go and say we are the victim on Sunday, we need to go and try to be a protagonist.”
–Field Level Media