4 reasons why we should just give the EPL title to Chelsea
Despite Spurs' fine form, the Blues' win over Man City all but ends the title race
With eight games left, Chelsea hold a seven-point advantage over Tottenham Hotspur. Here's why the sizzling Spurs won't be able to catch the runaway Blues.
1) SQUAD DEPTH
Antonio Conte and Mauricio Pochettino are offering tactical masterclasses so often they should wear tweed jackets with leather elbow patches.
The professorial pair delivered again yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Against Manchester City, Chelsea tried to counterbalance Pep Guardiola's love of nifty midfielders by pulling Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta into more defensive roles.
Kurt Zouma was offered a rare start in the back three as Conte effectively created a back five with poor N'Golo Kante just ahead and run ragged.
David Silva and Leroy Sane poured through central midfield like water through a sieve.
Conte acted at half-time, swopping Kouma for the human wall of Nemanja Matic.
City's creators were effectively cauterised. It wasn't pretty, but it worked. Pochettino, on the other hand, coped without Harry Kane by turning Tottenham into a dizzying, counter-attacking blur at Swansea.
Spurs left it late, but the constant, high-risk pressing paid off in stoppage time against limited opposition.
Unlike Guardiola, Conte and Pochettino have revelled in the EPL's frenzied, chaotic unpredictability, taking each mercurial match as an opportunity to adapt.
But Conte has the edge. Against Manchester City, he could call on Matic to execute his tactical tweak and still have room to bring on Willian.
Against Swansea, Pochettino could only introduce Vincent Janssen and Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. The Argentinian boasts the tactical ingenuity, but not the squad depth to catch Chelsea.
2) HAZARD LIGHTS UP
Chelsea and Tottenham share the same quirk up front.
Their recent goals have come from a less orthodox route.
Kane hasn't featured for Spurs since the beginning of March, though he may shake off his foot injury to face Watford at the weekend.
Chelsea's Diego Costa is present, but not a clear danger. He drifted to the game's periphery in the shock loss to Crystal Palace and stayed there against Man City.
Whether it's an untimely dip in form or lingering resentment at not being transferred, Costa finds himself being carried by his teammates at a critical juncture.
But the Blues are coping admirably with their AWOL Spaniard, with Eden Hazard on a personal mission to make amends for his last, wretched season.
The Belgian is a contender for both player of the season and a lucrative move to one of the La Liga leviathans.
Dele Alli is performing a similar role at Tottenham. Another goal capped a superb, authoritative performance at Swansea, with Christian Eriksen and Son Heung Min adding their names to the scoresheet.
Based on current form and proven pedigree, however, if a chance fell to the goal-scoring support acts at both Chelsea and Tottenham, the odds favour Hazard. He's got TNT in his boots and a chip on his shoulder, the perfect blend of sublime attacking and selfishness required for a title run-in.
3) FIXTURES FAVOUR BLUES
Eight games to go and Chelsea face only one club in the top six - a trip to Manchester United.
Frankly, Old Trafford visitors are more at risk of slipping into a coma than dropping three points.
Besides, Jose Mourinho's one-paced snooze fests should suit Chelsea.
Conte's men are adept at breaking down resilient opposition - Crystal Palace was an anomaly - and Hazard and Kante are more than a match for anything Mourinho might throw at Chelsea.
Other fixtures include Stamford Bridge hosting relegation candidates Middlesbrough and Sunderland, along with Southampton and Watford. Perhaps the trickiest tie is away to Everton, but Chelsea's fixture list is hardly littered with the kind of banana skins found at a chimps' tea party.
Tottenham's run-in is only marginally more arduous, but that's not really the point.
It's about the seven points that Chelsea must drop. Even then, Arsenal's trip to White Hart Lane stands out like a shark's fin in a pellucid sea, evoking memories of Chelsea's Herculean efforts to deny Spurs the title at any cost last season.
The gleeful Gunners will stop at nothing to repeat the feat. Tottenham also host United in mid-May, but one suspects the title's destination will be decided by then.
4) A BRIDGE TOO FAR
Strip away the "ifs, buts and maybes".
Cast aside the romantic whimsy of the eternal optimists and only the cold numbers remain. Chelsea won't throw away a seven-point advantage in eight games.
The Manchester City victory was so much more than three points. A daunting, psychological barrier had been cleared.
Conte's hoarse voice betrayed his tension.
City represented the final resistance, the last stand on behalf of EPL idealists hoping for a dramatic title run-in.
If Chelsea, playing with a distracted centre forward, could see off a City side that actually dominated for long periods with bursts of scintillating football, then the race's last leg should present no serious obstacles.
Momentum, the fixture list and Hazard are all in Chelsea's corner. The irrepressible, unstoppable, screaming managerial machine that is Conte should do the rest.