Football

Neville: Chelsea in driver's seat

Former United defender believes Blues are the team to beat if they keep key players fit

Gary Neville believes Chelsea have a "massive chance" of lifting the Premier League title, although the fitness of key players Diego Costa and Eden Hazard will be crucial.

The former Manchester United defender was speaking to Sky Sports after watching the league leaders come back from a Gary Cahill own goal to beat Man City 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

"They are in with a shout (of winning the league)," said Neville. "They have title winners in that dressing room... Costa and Hazard have to stay fit, that's the big thing because the drop in quality behind those two is enormous.

"They look really up for it. Hazard looks brilliant, Costa looks brilliant and, if they can keep those two fit, they are in with a massive chance.

"There was a devastation about Chelsea today.

"I am not going to hand Chelsea the title now, it's far too early for that but, when I think of teams that have won the league over the years, I think of teams that are capable of attacking in four or five seconds.

"They looked like they were going to concede at one end and then all of a sudden, it's in the back of the net at the other.

"It reminds me of teams that did win leagues.

"I saw that devastating counter-attack today, which is massively encouraging for them."

The match was marred by a on-field fracas late on.

City striker Sergio Aguero launched into a studs-first tackle on Brazilian David Luiz after losing control of the ball, sparking plenty of pushing and shoving between both sets of players.

During the chaos, City midfielder Fernandinho grabbed Cesc Fabregas by the throat and pushed him over the advertising hoardings, although it appeared from TV replays that Fabregas had provoked his opponent by putting a hand on his face.

Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off as a result, while Fabregas and Chelsea's Nathaniel Chalobah were cautioned by referee Anthony Taylor.

Former Premier League referee Howard Webb condemned Aguero's reckless challenge.

He told BT Sport: "Sergio Aguero commits an awful stud-first tackle, it's not even a tackle really, it's just a flying attack on David Luiz.

"It's one the FA will look at as well, maybe even more than three matches for that one.

"And then you get Cesc Fabregas just putting his hand on Fernandinho's face in the aftermath.

"Not exactly a slap, but we've said before when you put your hand into somebody's face, you're running a big risk of a red card.

"Fernandinho then gets hold of Fabregas by the neck and throws him over the hoardings so he gets sent off as well.

"(Kelechi) Iheanacho maybe throws an arm so all sorts going off at the end but, one thing's for sure, the actions of Sergio Aguero are totally unacceptable." - WIRE SERVICES

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