Chelsea-Manchester City Preview

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 30: Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on September 30, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Howes/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Having dutifully torn Arsenal asunder for the second time in a five-day span, champions-elect Manchester City will go about balancing their roster as their hectic schedule continues Sunday at the Etihad versus Chelsea.

Pep Guardiola's team followed up their 3-0 victory in the League Cup final over Arsenal at Wembley on Sunday with another masterclass 3-0 dismantling of the Gunners, this time in north London at the Emirates on Thursday.

The Citizens (24-3-1) effectively ended the contest in the first 33 minutes, running riot as Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Leroy Sane all scored goals in a breathtaking display of firepower that left Guardiola's counterpart Arsene Wenger bereft of answers in his dugout as he faced a fresh round of inquests about his coaching status post-match.

In some respects, Manchester City completely took their foot off the pedal in the second half and turned the game into a kickabout for the final half-hour after Ederson stopped Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's penalty in the 53rd minute.

"Mentally we were strong," Guardiola told City's official website. "We were clinical. We scored three outstanding goals. After that it was not easy - the first 15 minutes of the second half we were poor. Still, it's an amazing result for us and we made another step forward."

City enter the weekend 16 points clear of the field with 10 matches remaining and need just 15 points from those contests to claim their third Premier League title in seven years.

That chasm, coupled with them holding a comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the second leg of their round of 16 Champions League tie versus Swiss side Basel on Wednesday, means Guardiola can rotate his lineups accordingly for both matches.

"That was important because we have tough fixtures coming up, Chelsea, Everton, United and Tottenham," Guardiola added. "It was important to keep 16 points in front and improve the goal difference.

"We are out of the FA Cup and we won the League Cup. Now it's just two competitions and you fight for one of them for 10 months. These are the last steps to be champions, you keep going until the end. We have to win five games. We don't think too much. Now we play Chelsea. Hopefully, we have the desire to win, to be the best team in England."

One potential switch could be up front if Guardiola chooses to give Gabriel Jesus an extended run now that he has made two substitute appearances in the past week and rest Sergio Aguero.

That may not be a popular decision with the Argentina international, who is one goal shy of his 200th with the club. He missed the reverse fixture - a 1-0 City victory at Stamford Bridge - due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident after attending a concert in the Netherlands just two days before the game.

Central defenders John Stones and newcomer Aymeric Laporte also could be in line for a return after talisman Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi partnered and marshaled the back line in both victories over Arsenal.

While a second straight Premier League title is all but mathematically out of reach for Chelsea (16-5-7), they are waging a two-front title chase of their own in both the FA Cup and the Champions League.

The Pensioners are in the midst of a wickedly difficult stretch of schedule and coming off a 2-1 loss at Manchester United last Sunday that dropped them to fifth in the table.

"In this league, getting a place in the Champions League is not simple," manager Antonio Conte told Chelsea's website. "This country has the only championship where you can find six teams who start the season by fighting to win the title or getting a place in the Champions League. It's very hard for every team.

"We had a great chance to get three points against a competitor for a place in the Champions League, but in the end we are talking about another defeat."

Willian worked a 1-2 with Eden Hazard just after the half-hour to stake Chelsea to the lead, but Antonio Conte's men squandered that momentum shortly thereafter as Romelu Lukaku, the player United gazumped Chelsea for in the summer, bagged the equaliser before setting up Jesse Lingard's winner on 75 minutes.

"I am very disappointed, I think all the team are," keeper Thibaut Courtois said. "We scored a goal and then we could have had another one and it is annoying to concede another sloppy goal like on Tuesday against Barcelona. … In the second half they started to control the game, it was more equal, and I don't think they really deserved to win it more than us.

"But that is football and the second half they had more chances but we could have won as well."

Chelsea's second-leg round of 16 tie versus Barcelona is far more delicately balanced as they head to the Nou Camp on Wednesday needing to cancel out the away goal they conceded in their 1-1 draw on Feb. 20.

Unlike Guardiola, Conte does not have the luxury of a deep 25-man roster as he made just two changes to his starting XI from that match to Sunday's loss to United and utilised just 14 players overall as he swapped Cesc Fabregas with Danny Drinkwater and Pedro with Alvaro Morata while using January signing Olivier Giroud as a late substitute versus United.

Kevin De Bruyne accounted for the match winner at Stamford Bridge with a rasping 20-yard left-footed strike on 67 minutes against his former team. The teams have split the points in the last eight matches dating back to the 2014-15 season (3-2-3) and both teams have scored 12 goals in those contests.