December chance for Manchester City to close gap to Chelsea
(Eden Hazard 19, Didier Drogba 22, Loic Remy 73)
The revolution at Anfield has gone off the boil.
The expected resurgence of Arsenal and Manchester United haven't gone as well as planned.
And so, the English Premier League title race is whittled down to only two contenders with genuine credentials.
Leaders Chelsea continue their relentless march, threatening to usurp the throne before things even get meaningful.
Manchester City keep pace, barely, but they have overcome bigger deficits in the past to win it in the final stretch.
Six points separate Jose Mourinho's eerily efficient outfit from Manuel Pellegrini's defending champions at the 14-game mark. If the gap grows any wider than this, then City can as good as kiss their title defence goodbye.
It might be too early in the season to make bold predictions.
But Mourinho's teams are known to be terribly consistent. If there's any team that can go through a campaign without a blip, you'll put your money on the Blues.
It's why this month offers a rare window of opportunity for City.
December in English football is like no other.
It strains resources and tests resolve.
It sweeps the unsuspecting towards the deep end.
It reduces men to boys.
Over the next 24 days, while the rest of the world wrap and open Christmas gifts, Chelsea's players must negotiate seven games.
City, already eliminated from the League Cup, will play six.
Only the finest, and the luckiest, emerge from this crazy spell unscathed.
For the majority, however, injuries and fatigue catch up with them. The confidence dips and form suffers.
City have their work cut out for them.
Unlike Chelsea, who have already sealed top spot in their Champions League group, Man City face a do-or-die away fixture against Roma next week. City's ticket to the knock-out stage hinges on it, and Pellegrini's job rests on it.
A tricky home encounter with Everton on Sunday morning (Singapore time) means they can't take their foot even slightly off the pedal to conserve energy for their European assignment.
Pass these two tests, and City will receive a fillip to their confidence as they face an action-packed end to the year.
Four relegation-dogged sides - Leicester City, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion and Burnley - lie in wait.
The advantage for City, by virtue of starting off from a more vulnerable position, is that they have nothing to lose.
But any slip-ups during the period that traditionally makes or breaks a team could also prove fatal.
Chelsea, so imperious in their 3-0 home victory over Tottenham Hotspur on yesterday morning (Singapore time), have shown little to suggest they might choke.
They won't care about their inconsequential final Champions League group outing against Sporting Lisbon at Stamford Bridge next week.
Derby County, the English second-tier leaders, won't pose too much of a problem to them in the League Cup quarter-final either.
You can almost visualise Mourinho wearing a smirk as he plots the downfall of their next five Premiership opponents: Newcastle, Hull, Stoke, West Ham and Southampton.
But this is also December, when unpredictability is the name of the game.
It's also City's chance to seize.
- Dec 6: Newcastle v Chelsea
- Dec 13: Chelsea v Hull
- Dec 22: Stoke v Chelsea
- Dec 26: Chelsea v West Ham
- Dec 28: Southampton v Chelsea
- Dec 6: Man City v Everton
- Dec 13: Leicester v Man City
- Dec 20: Man City v Crystal Palace
- Dec 26: West Brom v Man City
- Dec 28: Man City v Burnley
Drogba, 36, still deadly
At the age of 36, Didier Drogba is still drawing plaudits, more so from his manager at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho.
The Ivorian's demolition of Tottenham yesterday morning (Singapore time) saw Mourinho waxing lyrical about the veteran striker.
Spurs were bidding for a first win at Stamford Bridge since February 1990 at the 28th attempt and began well, with Harry Kane hitting the crossbar with an early header.
But Chelsea stepped up with two goals in four first-half minutes.
Drogba provided the first for Eden Hazard before scoring himself as his second Blues spell shows signs of enhancing his hero status at the club.
Mourinho brought Drogba, who scored the decisive penalty in their 2012 Champions League win, back to Chelsea after two years away, in China and Turkey.
The Blues boss expects Drogba to see out his playing career at Chelsea before staying on at the club in some capacity.
"It's remarkable," the Portuguese said. "I was expecting exactly this. The important thing is that he's here and he's going to finish his career with Chelsea.
"It looks, for me, that he's going to stay doing other things when he finishes his career.
"It will be his decision when he decides when to stop as a player. It will be something personal."
Drogba was deputising for the suspended Diego Costa, who was serving a one-match ban.
"We need (Costa), but I think our mentality is the right mentality," Mourinho added.
"We don't have a player - we don't cry about it. We give confidence to the others and the others respond."
Loic Remy, who replaced Drogba in the second half, responded too, scoring a third.
Nemanja Matic will be suspended for tomorrow's match at Newcastle, but Mourinho added: "No problem. Play another one, like Diego Costa."
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino insisted the history did not weigh heavily on his side as he rued Chelsea's cutting edge.
"The history here was difficult, but we came here to get the three points and victory," the Argentinian said. "We showed our intention at the beginning of the game.
"We showed that we believed we could get a positive result, but it's difficult.
"I am not happy. I am very disappointed with the result, because 3-0 is harsh. (But) we need to look forward.
"For us it wasn't easy to turn to the result. We tried. It was difficult. It wasn't our night." - PA Sport.