Manchester City will still win the title but this was a win of genuine significance for Chelsea’s German coach
Oh, Sergio. A reminder from Mr Guardiola to all boys – particularly those who are leaving the Etihad Campus at the end of the year. Term is not over. The final exam is not yet passed. And this really isn’t the moment to start having fun.
This was an odd, increasingly gripping game. A 2-1 Chelsea win only delayed the inevitable title celebrations for Manchester City. But it carried a genuine significance for Thomas Tuchel, firming up the likelihood of a top four finish and ensuring his future employment to – shall we say? – at least November.Continue reading...
Goals from Sadio Mane and Thiago won the points for Liverpool, whose hopes of qualifying for next seson’s Champions League remain alive
Andy Hunter was at Anfield to see Liverpool beat Southampton and keep their hopes of Champons League qualification alive. Read on ...
More from Klopp: “They don’t give up, they go and go and go ...”
“It was good, it was good,” says the Liverpool manager. “It was tough, which is how Southampton games are. We knew that before and we had to work hard. We dod that and we scored a really nice goal.”
Thiago on his goal: “As I say, it’s an amazing feeling butthe most important thing is we keep fighting for this small miracle that we can have.”
Thiago Alcantara speaks: “I always try to bring out the reality,” he says in an interview with Sky Sports. “We are for sure not happy with the situation we are in now but for the mood, for the confidence in the next game ... we are very happy with the win. It’s always a great moment when you score but we have to keep fighting to the end to have this small chance [to finish in the top four].”
A quick recap: Poor for the opening 20 minutes, Liverpool took the lead after 31 minutes when Sadio Mane headed home a Mo Slah cross from the right. They rode their luck at times, with Alisson forced to make a couple of excellent saves from Che Adams, who will be very disappointed to have missed some excellen t chances. Thiago Alcantara put the game beyond Liverpool Late doors with his long overdue first goal for the club.
Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeep! It’s all over at Anfield, where Liverpool have won 2-0 to close the gap to Leicester City in fourth place to six points. Liverpool have a game in hand over their rivals for that Champions League spot and a much easier run-in.
It looks like a three-way shoot-out between Jurgen Klopp’s side, Leicester and West Ham for that final Champions League qualification place. With games to come against Brighton, West Brom and Southampton, I think West Ham are in the box-seat.
90+3 min: Liverpool substitution: Curtis Jones on for Sadio Mane.
Boom! Thiago cuts inside from the left, dribbles along the edge of the Southampton penalty area and unleashes a shot. It takes a deflection on its way into the bottom corner, wrong-footing Fraser Forster. That’s three points in the bag for Liverpool.
86 min: Nothing much continues to happen at great length in a game that is fizzling out into nothingness. There’s a break in play as Kyle Walker-Peters receives treatment for an injury. Liverpool substitution: Mo Salah off, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on for his 11th Premier League appearance of the season. Mo is not best pleased at being hooked and takes his seat in the stand shaking his head at the injustice of it all.
80 min: From a corner, Trent Alexander-Arnold stands the ball up for Sadio Mane at the far post. He volleys the ball home from the edge of the six-yard box but looks offside. The linesman waves his flag accordingly. No goal.
79 min: Liverpool substitution: Bob Firmino on for Diogo Jota. Southampton substitution: Moussa Djenepo on for Che Adams, who has missed two huge chances tonight.
77 min: Alisson plays the ball straight to Che Adams, who is so astonished to receive an inch-perfect pass from the Liverpool goalkeeper just outside the Liverpool penalty area, he passes it straight back. OK, it was a shot, but a pretty feeble one. He should have scored and it’s small wonder he walks back upfield with his head in his hands. .
72 min: A Southampton goal would really liven up what is a fairly dreary contest with the air of a training ground practice game about it. Another Liverpool goal would finish the game as a contest altogether. It’s been a poor show.
71 min: Now Diallo makes his mark, introducing himself with a shot from the edge of the Liverpool penalty area that Alisson turns over the bar. Nothing comes from the corner.
69 min: Kyle Walker-Peters cuts inside from the right and tries a couple of stepovers before unleashing a shot. Fabinho blocks it on the edge of the penalty area.
67 min: After good work from Redmond down the left, Che Adams threads a very neat through ball into the penalty area spotting Obafemi’s diagonal run in behind. Alisson is lightning fast off his line to deny the substitute a goal with his first touch.
65 min: Southampton double-substitution: Nathan Tella and Theo Walcott off, Michael Obafemi and Ibrahima Diallo on.
63 min: Nathan Tella finds himself in the Liverpool penalty area with Trent Alexander-Arnold to beat to get a clear shot on goal. The Liverpool defender stays on his feet and Tella is unable to find a way around him. Good, if unspectacular defending.
61 min: Nathan Redmond is booked for swinging out of Fabinho’s outstretched arm as he attempts to dribble past the Liverpool midfielder.
59 min: Walker-Peters sticks out a leg to stop Sadio Mane making his way into the Southampton penalty area from the left.
57 min: Free-kick for Southampton, wide on the left. James Ward-Prowse curls the ball straight into the gloves of Alisson but is alert enough to intercept the ball when the Liverpool goalkeeper tries to send Mo Salah on his way with a quick throw-out.
54 min: Theo Walcott gets on the ball on the right flank, providing a timely reminder that he is actually playing in this game. He turned 32 in March ... how ancient does that make you feel?
51 min: Mo Salah tries to stand the ball up for Trent Alexander-Arnold at the far post but overhits his pass. Wide.
48 min: Kyle Walker-Peters runs the ball out of Southampton’s defence after taking it down with his arm. It looked a blatant handball but he gets away with it despite appeals from assorted Liverpool players. Moments later, Liverpool are on the attack again and Diogo Jota brings a smart save out of Forster with a shot from a tight angle. A corner for Liverpool, from which nothing comes.
47 min: Stuart Armstrong muscles his way down the right touchline but is unable to get a cross into the Liverpool penalty area.
46 min: Liverpool kick off, playing into an empty Kop in this second half.
Peep! Kevin Friend draws the first half to a close and it’s one that won’t live long in the memory. Southampton were the better of the two sides in the opening 20 minutes but it was Liverpool who took the lead through Sadio Mane.
Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson was called into action to save from Che Adams and Nathan Redmond in quick succession and preserve his side’s lead. Liverpool lead at the break but there’s very little in it.
45+1 min: After the Nathans combine, it’s time for those of a double-barrelled surname persuasion to link up. Kyle Walker-Peters and James Ward-Prowse combine to win a free-kick for Southampton wide on the right. Ward-Prowse sends the ball in and Che Adams ends up bundling it into the net, but the whistle had gone for a Jan Bednarek foul in the penalty area.
43 min: Nathan Tella gets on the end of a Nathan Redmond cross from the left but steers his header straight at Alisson from seven or eight yards.
41 min: James Ward-Prowse whips the ball towards the far post aiming for Vestergaard, but Liverpool clear.
41 min: Southampton win a free-kick between the right side of the Liverpool penalty area and the touchline.
36 min: Fraser Forster does well to save from Mo Salah after the Liverpool man had got the better of Jack Stephens on the right and dribbled across the face of goal before pulling the trigger. The ball breaks to Fabinho, whose shot is blocked.
33 min: End to end stuff there, but Southampton will be ruing not one, but two missed chances just before Liverpool scored. Following Alisson’s excellent save from Adams, Nathan Redmond robbed Trent Alexander-Arnold in possession on the edge of the penalty area. His rushed shot lacked the venom to test the Brazilian goalkeeper, who saved easily.
Liverpool lead. Sadio Mane out-leaps Kyle Walker-Peters to nod home at the far post after getting on the end of a Mo Salah cross from the right. It was from quite close range, but in the Southampton goal, Fraser Forster seemed slow to react.
30 min: Alisson is quick off his line to deny Che Adams from eight yards after the striker had pounced on a cross from the left.
27 min: Under pressure from Mo Salah, Fraser Forster fires a clearance straight at Diogo Jota. Such is the power of Forster’s delivery, the Liverpool striker is unable to control it and the ball ricochets back into the waiting arms of the relieved goalkeeper.
25 min: Forster to the rescue again, parrying a Mo Salah shot after the Egyptian had been put in behind by a neat pass from Trent Alexander-Arnold. Liverpool are starting to take control of this game.
24 min: Forster saves from a Diogo Jota shot that was fired straight at him from close range after the Portuguese was teed up by a Sadio Mane backheel in the Southampton penalty area.
20 min: Nathan Redmond curls an effort well wide from distance after cutting in from the left. It looked to me like it took a deflection off Trent Alexander-Arnold but Liverpool are awarded a goal kick. Moments previously, Nat Phillips had headed narrowly wide with a downward effort after getting on the end of an Alex-Arnold cross.
18 min: Diogo Jota tries to stand the ball up for Sadio Mane in the Southampton penalty area, but Jannick Vestewrgaard sticks out his head to intercept. Moments later, Mo Salah finds a yard of space after being played in by Mane and shoots from a tight angle instead of pulling the ball back for his provider, who was unmarked in the centre. Forster saves and puts the ball out for a corner, from which nothing comes.
15 min: Southampton win a corner, which James Ward-Prowse will take. He drills a low ball towards the near post, which Andy Robertson reaches first. Liverpool don’t clear properly and Southampton win another corner off Fabinho. A set piece from the training ground, there ... which probably should have stayed there for another couple of weeks.
14 min: Nothing much continues to happen at great length. If this is what is passing for prime time Saturday night entertainment, I want my old job back.
11 min: Southampton win a free-kick on the halfway line for a foul on Nathan Tella.
10 min: Mane chests down a pass from deep on the edge of the Southampton penalty area ahead of Vestergaard. He lets it bounce before shooting high over the bar.
8 min: Kyle Walker-Peters plays the ball wide to Theo Walcott, whose cross from the left is headed clear. Southampton definitely in the ascendency in these early stages, but no chances for either side so far.
7 min: Fraser Forster boots the ball long after an aborted Southampton effort to play the ball out from the back. A vaguely promising attack breaks down when Rhys Williams dispossesses Nathan Redmond with a meaty challenge.
5 min: Mo Salah canters down the right wing with the ball at his feet but is dispossessed by Jack Stephens before he can get a cross in or cut inside.
4 min: Southampton win a throw-in on the halfway line by the technical areas.
4 min: Not much of note to report so far but Southampton are dominating proceedings in these early stages.
2 min: Correction, Southampton wear white shirts with a red sash - they’ve come to Anfield disguised as Peru. Or altar boys. They win an early corner, which James Ward-Prowse takes. Jannick Westergard gets his head to the ball but can’t control his effort. Trent Alexander-Arnold clears.
1 min: Southampton get the ball rolling, their players wearing white shirts, shorts and socks. The players of Liverpool wear their usual red home kit.
Not long now: James Ward-Prowse leads Southampton out and the visitors are followed by Liverpool, skippered by Gini Wijnaldum. Southampton are rank outsiders to win this game, but I have a feeling in ma bones they might just get a result tonight. We shall see ...
Those teams: Jurgen Klopp makes two changes, bringing Rhys WIlliams into the heart of his defence in place of Ozan Kabak, who is not in the matchday squad. Diogo Jota is in for Roberto Firmino, who drops to the bench.
On loan at Southampton from Liverpool and therefore ineligible for this game, Takumi Minamino is replaced by Theo Walcott in Ralph Hassenhuttl’s only change.
Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Phillips, Williams, Robertson, Fabinho, Thiago, Wijnaldum, Jota, Mane, Salah
Subs: Adrian, Firmino, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jones, Tsimikas, Shaqiri, Woodburn, Williams, Koumetio.
Chelsea have just come from ebhind to beat Manchester City by the odd goal of three at the Etihad Stadium. A comedy penalty miss by Sergio Aguero just before half-time proved the turnbing point, the Argentinian striker incurring his manager’s wrath with an ill-advised panenka that Eduoard Mendy saved easily.
Goals from Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso cancelled out Raheem Sterling’s opener, the Spaniard scoring in the second minute of added time to steal all three points for Chelsea and put Manchesterr City’s title coronation on hold. Chelsea go third and Liverpool find themselves nine points off the top four, having played two games fewer than Leicester and Chelsea.
Having been named in Jurgen Klopp’s starting line-up for the postponed game against Manchester United last weekenbd, Nat Phillips is expected to return to action tonight. His fellow central defenders, the long-term absentees Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip and Joe Gomez remain on the sidelines. Jordan Henderson is also out, as is reserve goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher.
Southmapton loanee Takumi Minamino is unable to play against his parent club and will have to watch this one from the stands, where he will be joined by his fellow striker Danny Ings, who is not expected to play again this season.
Having been treated to an unexpected and unwanted day off last Sunday due to the fan protests at Old Trafford and in Manchester city centre, Liverpool go into tonight’s game against Southampton seven points off a Champions League place and unable to risk dropping any more in the run-in. Following defeats for Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur this weekend, their hopes of making the top four look considerably less forlorn than they did at this time 24 hours ago. In other good news for Liverpool, Chelsea are currently being held at Manchester City.
Having claimed just six points from the past 30 available at Anfield, the outcome of tonight’s match is by no means a foregone conclusion, even if Jurgen Klopp’s side are hosting a Southampton team that have largely uinderwhelmed and are without a win in their past three games. Kick-off at Anfield is at 8.15pm (BST) but stay tuned in the meantime for team news and build-up.Continue reading...
Jürgen Klopp has described Champions League qualification as unlikely for Liverpool. He has unwittingly spoken of it in the past tense on occasion too. It remains, however, a possibility in the present after Sadio Mané’s first-half header and Thiago Alcântara’s first goal for the club downed Southampton while heightening the anxiety that stalks Leicester once again.
The Premier League champions, for a little while longer at least, can sniff blood in the form of Brendan Rodgers’ faltering side, who they now trail by six points but with a game in hand and a less taxing run-in overall. This performance was not a convincing argument for Liverpool’s own prospects of remaining part of the European elite and they were indebted to goalkeeper Alisson for a clean sheet that Southampton had several chances to ruin. But at this stage of an exhausting season, the end product was all that mattered for Klopp.Continue reading...
City blew their chance to secure the title early, Sergio Aguero’s botched Panenka allowing Chelsea to storm back in the second half
David Hytner was at the Etihad, where the title celebrations have been put on hold. Here’s his report. Click to enjoy ... and don’t forget Barry Glendenning is currently at the helm of the Liverpool-Southampton MBM. Thanks for reading this one!
Pep, simmering gently, talks to Sky. “We played really good. We miss our chance in the last minute of the first half with the penalty, and we were playing better. It was Aguero’s decision [to Panenka the penalty]. He decided to do it his way. Nothing to add. We were really good but at the end they scored.” As for the Zouma-Sterling incident? “It’s a penalty. It’s a penalty, that’s all. It’s a penalty, that’s all! That’s football, it happened. Try the next time to score our penalty. My opinion of the officials, they know it. Sometimes we make mistakes, maybe [the officials] believe they don’t make a mistake. What can I say? In 21 days we are going to face them again, we are going to try to learn from that, and now we try to win the three points we need to be champion.”
Thomas Tuchel speaks to Sky Sports. “What a performance in the second half. It was more or less an equal first half, but in the last five minutes we almost gave it away completely. If they scored a penalty it was over before it really starts. If it was 2-0 we would have had no chance to come back. But it was 1-0 and we had one injured player, and I am absolutely impressed by the reaction, we deserved to win the second half. You need a bit of luck, momentum and decisions for the referee, but we had many chances, so big congratulations to the team. In the second half we had better control and were more confident. It was a physical battle and we never stepped back. Timo Werner was working like a dog, really working hard, it was so important he gave them a hard time, he had them pretty exhausted so I have no complaints. We know well that this result will not change the final, but we arrive with the knowledge that we are capable of beating them. This will not change.” No word on the gravity of Andreas Christensen’s hamstring injury yet.
The more Sky replay Zouma’s challenge on Sterling, the more it looks like a penalty. Zouma makes contact three times from behind, admittedly gently, Sterling going down easily. But the City winger had the right to do so, and to expect to see the referee pointing at the spot. Here’s Sterling’s view! “It’s a difficult one to take. We had chances to finish the game off, we didn’t, and we got punished. For me, I couldn’t get a shot off because he’s put his knee on the back of my hamstring. I don’t know how it’s not a penalty, I don’t know how it’s not been reviewed properly. I knew it was a penalty. I thought VAR was here to help. The referee said to me it’s been checked and cleared, but for me it’s a sure penalty. We thought it was going to be the day we’d get over the line, but we didn’t take our chances.” He briefly flashes a knowing smile when asked whether Sergio Aguero had said anything to him about his goal. “Was he OK?! I was in the box, it was a bad first touch, it went in the back of the net, that was the most important thing.”
Raheem Sterling was quietly seething as he left the field of play. Did he mutter the words “effing embarrassing” there? He could have been referring to the referee’s unwillingness to award a late penalty for City, Zouma making contact from behind, or ... but let’s not riff on Sergio Aguero’s pain again. Either way, City trudged off glumly, while Chelsea cavorted in glee. Ostensibly, Chelsea will be celebrating the three points that consolidates their lead in the race for a top-four finish, though of course this victory carries a little more significance than that, given that City will think about very little else for the next three weeks.
Manchester City remain on 80 points, still three shy of winning the Premier League. Chelsea move up into third on 64, leapfrogging Leicester, who went down at home to Newcastle last night. A huge result in so many ways for Thomas Tuchel’s side, who have City’s number right now. What a boost that will give them for the Champions League final. City will still win the title, but a few seeds of doubt will have be planted ahead of the big showdown in Istanbul.
Chelsea put down a huge marker ahead of the Champions League final! They deny City the chance to secure the Premier League title today ... and nudge ever closer to the Champions League insurance policy that is a top-four finish!
90 min +3: That’s nothing more than Chelsea deserve for their second-half performance. It’s also no more than Sergio Aguero deserves, for his egregious Panenka penalty before half-time.
Chelsea work their way down the right yet again. Werner enters the box, reaches the byline and cuts back for Alonso, who opens his body up and shovels the ball into the top left!
90 min +1: Space for Hudson-Odoi down the right. He looks for Werner at the near post. Mendy snaffles. On the touchline, Pep has been remonstrating with the fourth official regarding the Sterling-Zouma penalty shout.
90 min: Pulisic, in full flight down the left, is brought crashing to ground by Jesus, who is booked. There will be three minutes for City to find the winner that would secure the title.
88 min: Alonso has a chance to chip goalwards from a tight angle on the left with Ederson on walkabout, but his effort is well off target.
87 min: Both teams are looking for the winner, a draw ideal for neither, the play going back and forth. Gundogan whiffs a shot. Werner can’t quite tear clear down the left. Zouma looks to have clanked into the back of Sterling, just inside the box. The referee isn’t interested. VAR has a look, but decides there’s no obvious enough contact to overturn the original decision. Knee did meet buttock, though.
85 min: Gundogan makes good down the left and clips a pass infield for Foden, at the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. Foden attempts a first-time flick across Mendy and towards the bottom right. Always heading wide, though it was a hellishly difficult chance.
84 min: City probe down both flanks, but can’t prise Chelsea open. Eventually Cancelo, coming in from the right, gets fed up and tries an ambitious curler towards the top left. Nope.
82 min: VAR double checks, and the original decision stands. City go up the other end, Sterling momentarily clear down the inside-right channel. He’s about to shoot when Zouma slides in to block. A perfectly timed tackle! Anything else would have been another penalty kick.
81 min: Chelsea have the ball in City’s net again! The ball’s worked wide right to James, who rolls another dangerous cross into the centre again. Hudson-Odoi slams home ... but the flag goes up for offside. VAR will double check.
79 min: Jorginho fires a pass down the middle for Werner, who races free, rounds Ederson, and rolls home. But once again, Werner has dozily wandered offside. There was no need for that. A huge hole in the middle of City’s defence there.
78 min: Jesus
, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey
cuts in from the right and looks for the bottom left. Always going wide.
76 min: Ziyech is replaced by Hudson-Odoi. “Pep looks like the suspect who finally breaks under interrogation by the Line of Duty trio,” suggests
and Joseph and the wee donkey
74 min: Chelsea smell a little blood, you sense. Pulisic dribbles with great purpose down the middle, before laying off to Ziyech on the right. He looks for Werner at the far post. Werner somehow clears the ball rather than heading it goalwards.
73 min: James tears past Mendy down the right. He curls a tempting low cross through the six-yard box, but Werner, at full stretch, can’t quite connect. Anything on that, and he’d have bundled home.
71 min: City can’t do any better with the second take of the corner.
70 min: Another corner for City on the right. Before we find out whether they can do any better this time, City make a double sub. Foden replaces Torres, while Gundogan comes on as Aguero’s dignity-free evening comes to an end.
69 min: The City corner leads to a Chelsea counter, Ziyech embarking on a 60-yard dribble before sending Werner into space down the left. Cancelo comes across and blocks, Werner attempting to buy a free kick for obstruction, the referee not interested. City were horribly exposed for a minute there.
68 min: Laporte and Jesus combine down the right, forcing Alonso into sliding out for a corner. Before that can be taken, Jorginho comes on for Kante.
66 min: In the City dugout, Pep has his head in his hands, ranting to himself. He is fuming. Subs ahoy, I’ll be bound.
65 min: James dinks down the right for Kante, who finds more space on this flank. Kante pulls back for Gilmour, who chests down in the hope of replicating Ziyech’s goal ... but just as he prepares to shoot, a City toe pokes the ball away from harm. City are rocking here.
This had been coming, sort of. Rodri is stripped of possession by Azpilicueta, who one-twos with Pulisic. Space down the right. He thinks about crossing low for Werner, in the box, but instead pulls back fo Ziyech, who takes a touch and whistles a lovely low drive into the bottom right! Penny for the thoughts of Guardiola and Aguero right now.
61 min: Aguero and Pulisic take turns to go down dramatically under non-existent challenges. The referee shows no interest in acknowledging either of them.
60 min: Werner makes a nuisance of himself out on the left. The ball breaks back to James, whose shot isn’t up to much. City only half clear, and Chelsea come again. There’s a little bit of space and time for Pulisic on the edge of the D, but his attempt to curl into the top right is high and wide.
59 min: Chelsea pass and probe, but do little to pull the City defence out of shape. They’re seeing more of the ball in opposition territory, though.
57 min: A long pass down the City right, intended for Jesus, flies harmlessly out of play. There’s not much going on, to be honest.
55 min: Pulisic dribbles down the right and hopes to play in Werner, but the striker isn’t looking along the line. He’s clearly well offside, even though he keeps demanding the ball. Pulisic waits and waits for his team-mate to catch on, but eventually runs out of time and the chance is gone. That’s poor play from Werner, who would have been sent clear easily had he looked around and delayed his run.
53 min: Azpilicueta and Sterling tussle, the former’s hand slapping the latter’s face as he shepherds a ball out of play. It all looks accidental enough, and the Chelsea captain offers a hand of apology, but Sterling’s not convinced and doesn’t accept it. Views are exchanged.
51 min: A long City pass down the middle. Torres heads down into the path of Aguero, who meets the dropping ball, 25 yards out. As the world writes headlines of fairytale redemption, he sends an apologetic bobbler towards Mendy, who claims easily. It was probably harder to gather than the penalty, even so.
50 min: A little bit of space for Werner, sent clear by Alonso. He shoots from a tight angle, into the side netting. The flag goes up for offside.
49 min: Chelsea stroke it around the middle without much in the way of direction.
47 min: On the touchline, Pep still has the air of a man indulging in a turbo-seethe over Aguero’s scuffed Panenka, glaring out darkly towards the field of play. Probably best that sort of thing happens today and not in three weeks’ time.
City get the ball rolling for the second half. Aguero is still on, perhaps having been told he owes his team-mates one. Chelsea meanwhile have finally got Zouma onto the pitch in place of the stricken Christensen.
However, let’s keep everything in perspective, because despite that fiasco, City are still winning. They’re 45 minutes away from title number seven. News of any potential half-time punishment-substitutions soon!
That was a dismal couple of minutes for Sergio Aguero. The heavy touch that nearly cost the opening goal, then the botched Panenka ... and Sky have now shown footage of his berating Sterling for arriving on the scene to batter home the opening goal. He’s got some cheek, given how badly he miscontrolled the pass from Jesus with the goal gaping. As both Jamie Redknapp and Micah Richards point out on Sky, his team-mate got him out of jail with that one; Sterling should be receiving thanks, not a hot-faced lecture.
Aguero has plenty of moral credit in the bank when it comes to title-clinching matches for City, but he’s used a wee bit of it up there. I wouldn’t fancy being in his shoes when he gets to the dressing room, Guardiola having stormed down the tunnel in high dudgeon. Tuchel isn’t best pleased, either, having been unable to bring Zouma on when Christensen limped off. A largely uneventful half ends with a bang.
45 min +3: Aguero attempts a Panenka. Mendy doesn’t commit to a dive right, and is able to stand up again and catch casually. Oh dear. On the touchline, Pep is fuming.
45 min +2: One minute of injury time. As the clock ticks over, City enter the Chelsea box en masse. Gilmour crashes into the back of Jesus, and Chelsea have fallen apart here in double-quick time!
45 min: A double blow for Chelsea, who have lost Christensen to injury. He was feeling his hamstring.
A long ball down the right. Christensen should deal with it, but swishes fresh air, allowing Jesus to race into the box. Jesus, drawing Mendy, unselfishly rolls across to Aguero, who takes an uncharacteristically heavy touch in front of an unguarded net. The ball breaks left, the chance looks gone ... but in comes Sterling to bash home!
43 min: Gilmour injects some pace into a Chelsea ramble, pinging the ball forward for Ziyech, who strides into space and curls towards the top left. Ederson pushes clear at full stretch. Chelsea come again, Rudiger blazing over wildly. City then go up the other end, and ...
41 min: Since the half-hour mark, City have enjoyed 68 percent of possession. It’s fair to say they haven’t done much with it, but everyone seems content enough at the moment.
39 min: Sterling’s cute backheel releases Mendy down the left again. Mendy clumps an awful cross through the box and out for a throw on the other side. “This somehow still feels like it has 0-0 written all over it,” writes Grant Tennille. “Even with so much ostensibly at stake, the dominant vibe is more ‘two international heavyweights meeting in the early stages of a tournament qualification campaign’ than make-or-break, ‘sharp end of the season’ electricity.”
38 min: ... nothing. Nix. Bupkis. Nada.
37 min: A little space for Mendy down the left. He whips low and hard towards the near post, forcing Christensen to hoick behind for a corner. From which ...
35 min: Sterling skitters down the left wing at speed. He cuts infield and wonders where Aguero is. He overruns the ball a little, allowing Kante to make half a block. Sterling barges through the challenge and takes an instinctive shot from 25 yards. It’s heading into the bottom left, but not at any particular speed, and Mendy flops on it without drama.
33 min: Gilmour sends Werner scampering down the left. Werner reaches the edge fo the box and, using Ake as cover, tries to curl into the top right. It’s always heading wide and high, and it turns out he would have been offside earlier in the move anyway.
32 min: James, by the right-hand edge of the City D, drives low and hard. The ball’s going miles wide left, but Werner diverts it neatly into the top right with a flick of his boot. He doesn’t bother celebrating, though, as he knows he’s miles offside. The flag goes up.
30 min: Both teams are threatening to score an opener. Pulisic and Ziyech combine down the middle and nearly tee up Werner; then up the other end, Jesus has two goes at releasing Aguero down the middle, but can’t get his pass right on either occasion. Yep, intriguing rather than exciting.
28 min: Werner takes on Laporte down the left. Just as he’s about to skip past, Laporte steps on his toe. A large cry of pain. No free kick, though. Werner’s soon back up after a worrying 20-second period of rolling about. Any player who stays down between now and 29 May will have Chelsea and City fans’ hearts in mouths.
26 min: City stroke it around the middle of the park, without too much urgency.
24 min: Christensen’s miscue and Aguero’s industry leads to a City corner on the left. Torres whips to the near post. Alonso is forced to eyebrow out. Take two. Mendy claims the second one from the middle of a crowded six-yard box.
22 min: Another free kick out on the Chelsea right. They load the City box. Ziyech takes. Ake clears. This has been intriguing rather than exciting so far, which is better than nothing.
20 min: Both of these clubs have kept 31 clean sheets in all competitions this season. Next best is Manchester United with 24. So here we are.
18 min: Some space for Werner down the left. He teases Ake, pushing him back and further back, then rolls across for Gilmour. His strike is blocked the second it leaves his boot, Mendy doing the brave work.
17 min: Aguero spins in the middle of the park, finding space to launch an attack. Sterling and Jesus assist, the ball eventually laid off for Rodri, whose low drive deflects wide left for a corner. Nothing much happens at the set piece.
15 min: Chelsea are growing into this now. James is sent scampering down the right by Gilmour. His low cross is easy meat for Ederson. A poor delivery, given Werner and Pulisic were up with play.
14 min: The resulting free kick is useless.
13 min: VAR decides yellow will suffice. Sterling put studs on ankle there, and he didn’t look totally in control. He’s a lucky chap.
12 min: A little bit of possession in the midfield for Chelsea. Rudiger has the chance to release Werner down the inside left, but misplaces the pass. Cancelo intercepts. Then Chelsea come again. Werner is about to receive possession to the right of the D. Sterling slides in. Foul. Yellow. But is it more? VAR is going to check.
10 min: City look dangerous every time they move forward ... until they reach the final third. So far Chelsea have held their shape, and there’s no way through. A pattern may have been set.
8 min: Sterling and Jesus combine well down the inside-left channel, advancing at speed. The ball breaks left to Mendy, who hares in from the wing and hits a first-time drive across the face of goal and well wide right.
6 min: Chelsea haven’t seen much of the ball yet. They’re unlikely to be overly concerned. Their possession percentage against Real Madrid was somewhere in the 30s, if memory serves, yet they carved out a plethora of chances.
4 min: A simple long ball down the City right. Christensen misreads the bounce, allowing Torres to race off. Torres has Aguero in the middle, but opts for the sensational, looking for the top right from the edge of the box. An early chance spurned.
2 min: A long ball down the right evades Werner. Other than that, it’s been a nondescript start.
1 min: According to Gary Neville on Sky, City are playing 5-1-4.
The blues are out! City in sky, Chelsea in royal. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes!
Sky ask Thomas Tuchel if the Real Madrid game had a bearing on his selection tonight. “It was a huge effort, not only physically but mentally. We had one day less to recover, we had travel to do. You could see in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley what one day can do, we did not have to travel, they had after Dortmund, so we needed to do some changes. Also to prove we have trust in our whole squad, which is what we have. Game is on.”
Sky ask an extremely relaxed Pep Guardiola what he discussed with Thomas Tuchel when the pair met moments earlier. “He gave me the tactics for the final of the Champions League. Now I know it. Everything! No, we have a long relationship, when I was in Munich he was in Dortmund and Mainz, he’s a good guy. His is a tough side. Always. Game on!”
As is de rigueur these days, a large crowd gathered outside the Etihad to wish Manchester City well upon their arrival. Just as they did for the Champions League semi-final against PSG, hundreds of fans lined the street leading up to the ground, giving it plenty as the team bus drove past slowly. It was the usual heady mix of blue flares, fireworks, people spilling into the road, peelers keeping order, and not much in the way of social distancing. The title may be clinched tonight in an empty stadium, but the champions-elect know they’ve made their people happy.
Manchester City make nine changes to the XI sent out to beat PSG on Tuesday evening. Ederson and Ruben Dias are the only players to keep their places. Sergio Aguero is handed a start, nine years on from that title-clinching goal.
Chelsea are stable by comparison, making just five changes to the team named for the schooling of Real Madrid on Wednesday. Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Billy Gilmour, Reece James and Marcos Alonso replace Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Jorginho, Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell.
Manchester City: Ederson, Ake, Dias, Laporte, Joao Cancelo, Rodri, Mendy, Torres, Aguero, Sterling, Gabriel Jesus.
Subs: Walker, Gundogan, Zinchenko, Steffen, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Foden, Garcia.
Chelsea: Mendy, Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Kante, James, Ziyech, Gilmour, Alonso, Pulisic, Werner.
Subs: Arrizabalaga, Jorginho, Abraham, Zouma, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz, Emerson Palmieri, Livramento.
It’s a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final … and so much more. For a start, there’s the not insignificant fact that Manchester City can secure their seventh English league championship this evening. Three points tonight, and they’ll be uncatchable at the top of the Premier League table. How they’d love to get the job done and freewheel towards their date with destiny in Istanbul.
Chelsea won’t be in the mood to faff about either. They need a top-four finish, to guarantee Champions League football next season, whatever their fate in Turkey, and that’s yet to be secured. Defeat today would give West Ham,
and Liverpool the chance to make up some ground, with tricky fixtures against Arsenal, Leicester and Aston Villa to come, and that’s before considering the FA Cup final.