Nemanja Matic
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Chelsea’s Etihad win is major twist in title race

| 04.02.2014

Jose Mourinho was quick to downplay Chelsea’s Premier League title credentials after his side ended the perfect home record of Manchester City, but the Londoners are now 2/1 to be crowned champions.

Branislav Ivanovic rifled in the decisive goal at the Etihad on a night when Chelsea put together a counter-attacking masterclass and hit the woodwork three times. Mourinho’s men moved level on points with City and two behind leaders Arsenal, who are still good value at 4/1 to take the title.

Despite drawing a blank on their own turf for the first time since November 2010 and seeing a 20-match unbeaten run end, City remain favourites to regain the Premier League trophy at evens. Liverpool meanwhile are 20/1 outsiders and bar the top four it’s 150/1 and longer.

“I don’t agree we are title contenders,” Mourinho said. “The title race is between two horses and a little horse that needs milk and needs to learn how to jump. Maybe next season we can race.” Yet Chelsea were racing at the Etihad, catching Manuel Pellegrini’s City on the break.

If the Special One’s analogy is to be believed, then punters must consider the possibility that Chelsea will finish second, third or even fourth. Those eventualities are 7/4, 9/4 and 9/1 respectively. Odds of 16/1 on Mourinho’s men to finish outside the top four should be avoided on the evidence of the City game.

January signing Nemanja Matic was among those who caught the eye in visiting ranks on Monday evening. The Serbia international, who rejoined Chelsea from Benfica for a fee reportedly in excess of £20m, anchored the midfield alongside David Luiz.

Matic got in Mourinho’s XI ahead of veteran Frank Lampard and destroyer John Obi Mikel for the City assignment. Based on his encouraging display, this could be a sign of things to come at Chelsea in big matches going forward.

Providing elegant protection for the back four, Matic also picked his moments to join in attacks on his first Premier League start. His 25-yarder was one of those three attempts Chelsea had that crashed against the goal frame.

City’s Chilean coach Pellegrini downplayed the significance of the defeat. “For Chelsea, it was a decisive game, not for us,” he said. “If we won, we were six points ahead of them. Now we are two points behind Arsenal.”

Mourinho must take Chelsea to the Etihad again on February 15th as the two title contenders meet in the FA Cup fifth round, having already completed a Premier League double over City.

In the meantime, the title race remains as absorbing as it has been in several years. Arsenal, Chelsea and City are all odds-on to win a major trophy this season, but the destination of the Premier League crown remains in the balance.