We like annoying people. It’s a Manchester thing. It’s a trait, we just like p***ing people off’ – Noel Gallagher

The mid-nineties saw the rise of Britpop culture take a hold of Britain, and a surge in ordinary working-class musicians hitting the big time and taking the world by storm; no band typified this more so than Oasis, a band formed by two brothers and friends, whose songs became some of the greatest in British music history.

Since the arrival of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to the North West of England, the focus of the football world in Premier League terms has put the focus once again on Manchester.

In the space of seven days, Chelsea will have played them both, so it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Antonio Conte came back to London sporting a Mancunian twang to his Italian accent.

Sunday’s loss among the pre-match hysteria surrounding both managers wasn’t what anybody wanted, especially after Willian put Chelsea in front following a good first half display. The sides around us gained an advantage which does put the pressure on now as the Blues have slipped to fifth, but those sides have to play each other so it is all still to play for in terms of domestic matters.

Antonio Conte takes his charges to the other side of Manchester, to face runaway leaders and champions-elect Manchester City.

What Pep Guardiola and his side have done this season in the Premier League is nothing short of astonishing, they have been near-perfect since August, arguably winning the league from their EIGHTEEN match winning run from August to New Year’s Eve, with only one loss. Wouldn’t it be nice if Eden Hazard and co become only the second team to beat City in the league and repeat the victory of last season, a vitally important victory in terms of Chelsea winning the league last season.

What the last two league seasons have produced is that a significant winning run can propel you to the ultimate glory in May; while Leicester were consistent over the entire season, Chelsea and City have blown away the competition with their respective thirteen and eighteen match-winning runs in that last two seasons. And since the arrival of Jose Mourinho to these shores in 2004, the days of Sir Alex Ferguson and the Manchester United sides of the past getting their act together in the final months of the season to win the title seem to becoming a distant memory.

The mantra of the last two seasons seems to becoming a trend, quite if this is the modern way to win a league in England remains to be seen, but certainly in terms of how Pep Guardiola wins a league, the trend has followed him throughout his managerial career where ever he has managed, one look at the longest winning streaks in the top five European leagues only confirms this.

So what should Sunday hold in store for the Blues; well it will be arguably the toughest away test of the season, especially on a ground where Manchester City have not lost for well over a year, heck they have only dropped eight points since January 2017, so the task in what lies ahead for Chelsea is obvious.

Antonio Conte and his players have negotiated their toughest period of the season with, on the whole, good solid performances – but for the faintest of paintwork on the frame of the goal at the Shed End and a defensive error against Barcelona, it could have been a totally different story.

The whole team carried out the manager’s instructions to the letter, sacrificing some of their more attacking senses for the good of the team and the overall outcome come the final whistle.

There was some negative reaction to the team selection on the night, but looking at the overall performance it can be argued that Antonio Conte got his tactics spot on; the Camp Nou and the vast difference in terms of the size of the pitch, whether the same tactics will work is another debate to be had – personally speaking, would look to a focal point striker in the Camp Nou may be the way to go, as it has worked well for Chelsea in the past, but whether Alvaro Morata or Oliver Giroud can marshal and stretch the Barcelona defence as Didier Drogba did in years gone by is again another question – but it certainly makes for an intriguing second leg, and everyone connected with the Blues will be hoping for a similar outcome as in 2007 and 2012.

So Barcelona can wait for now, it is back to domestic matters and Manchester.

While the focus of the Premier League is squarely on this famous city in the North West of England once again, it would quite nice to p*** those Gallagher brothers off and bring home three precious points back to West London as was the case last season – Definitely Not Maybe.

What started off at Stamford Bridge against Barcelona, to a hopeful positive round trip of Manchester, a day trip back to the Bridge for the visit of Crystal Palace, which all culminates in the Nou Camp; for a season-defining period it has been a steady but disappointing opening gambit, what belief and momentum we take over to Spain will be determined in Manchester, against familiar faces and against familiar foes.

So in a strange way, Manchester theoretically holds the destiny of the most important part of Chelsea’s season in the BALM of its hand – I’ll get my coat.

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