That’s that, then. After an abject Manchester City performance against Burnley, Chelsea are all but confirmed Premier League champions for 2014-15.
It has been written and predicted by most, if not all, who follow the English top flight for much of the campaign but City’s dismal showing in defeat to Burnley has compounded the inevitable – Manuel Pellegrini’s side will not retain the title that they won so impressively last term.
A visit to Turf Moor presented an opportunity to close the gap on Jose Mourinho’s side to two points. The Blues may have two games in hand on their closest rivals but the pressure on the west London side could have at least been increased. Following their Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain, there is a feeling that they could yet stutter in the final domestic run-in.
But instead of seeing off a side battling relegation with the swagger that they exhibited on the way to their second Premier League triumph, they were instead miserable and allowed Sean Dyche’s side to dictate terms for long periods.
City’s title winning sides, though not unflappable, were able to turn it on at will, particularly against the teams who occupy the lower reaches of the table.
But instead of taking the game to Burnley, they sat back and watched as the home team again showcased the endless energy that has led to them mounting a survival bid that few felt was possible in August.
With Barcelona – who were dispatching Primera Division minnows Eibar 2-0 courtesy of a Lionel Messi double as City toiled at Turf Moor – on the immediate horizon, it is understandable that Pellegrini would have wanted his side to reserve some energy when they need to chase the game at Camp Nou in four days’ time.
But here was an opportunity to make their class tell and put a side who are, without doubt, inferior to them in terms of personnel to bed early before resting legs ahead of a trip to Spain.
Instead, the focus seemed to be holding off the Clarets before trying to pick them off as the match wore on. To say that it backfired would be a rather large understatement.
Pellegrini might have labelled it a “normal performance” but this was far from the Manchester City that many have come to admire since their rise to the upper echelons of the table. It may come under the bracket of normality in a season in which their lethargy has been noted but it was not the showing of a team who want to retain the crown come May.
The Chilean is not about to write off his own side’s chances of catching Chelsea – that would be the straw to break the camel’s back and leave the former Real Madrid boss out of work even sooner than some have been speculating.
But Pellegrini must now realise that his team do not have it in them to pull off a third title win from behind in four years.
In fact, it is over his shoulder instead of in front of him where the veteran coach must now be looking. Arsenal sit just a solitary point behind the holders in third. Should Manchester United and Liverpool win their matches over this weekend, the gap between them and City would be two and four points, respectively.