Neil Humphreys: Keep title race alive, Higuain
Chelsea striker can prevent EPL snoozefest
There are four distinct groups hoping for another exhibition of clinical goalscoring from Gonzalo Higuain this weekend.
Chelsea fans would be the first, obviously, followed by Liverpool supporters, dedicated Fantasy Premier League participants and everyone else on the planet beyond the blue half of Manchester.
And to think the experienced Argentinian probably assumed he was serving only his paymasters against Manchester City on Sunday. How naive he was.
At the Etihad, Higuain will essentially hover around the penalty box with a defibrillator, ready to resuscitate the English Premier League title race if and when required.
Is that imagery a touch on the hyperbolic side?
That depends on how honest you're prepared to be with the following question. Should City contain Higuain and defeat Chelsea, do you envisage Liverpool winning their game in hand at Old Trafford and pretty much going unbeaten for the rest of the season?
That particular scenario could play out, just as Brexit could be reversed and Donald Trump could accept that climate change is something more than adjusting the temperature of his sunbed.
But in all probability, these things are unlikely to happen.
Chelsea are erratic in midfield, positively schizophrenic in defence and ruled by a manager so stubborn, he makes Jose Mourinho look like a master of improvisation.
But they also have a metronome in attack.
Higuain delivers. He's the proverbial lump up front with a delicate touch, the kind of messy party pooper that City's jaded defence won't fancy facing at such a critical juncture.
He scored a brace against Huddersfield Town last weekend, in a 5-0 win that was arguably not an accurate barometer for Higuain, but the manner of his goals was a cause for mild optimism.
Those Fantasy Football fans who picked up Chelsea's new signing know that Higuain's performance was more than just goals.
He took a team-high six shots. He picked up extra points for essentially assisting himself for one of the goals.
In both instances, his touch was quick, slick and decisive.
In other words, he displayed the qualities that Chelsea have lacked since Diego Costa's departure, the kind of rugged confidence that City have struggled to defend against (think back to the Newcastle United defeat).
Higuain also got the best out of Eden Hazard. The Belgian combined more often with him than he had with any other teammate in four previous matches.
Hazard passed to Higuain 12 times (in comparison, in second place was Marcos Alonso, whom he found eight times, despite playing on the same flank).
More pertinently, Higuain passed to Hazard nine times, bringing the Blues' best player into the game more often.
As a result, Hazard completed 12 dribbles, the highest total by any EPL player since, well, Hazard on Boxing Day, 2016.
Hazard and Higuain are clicking.
Their love of one-touch passing allows them to peel away and wait for the return ball, the key component of the polarising "Sarri-ball" philosophy.
Maurizio Sarri wasn't determined to sign his former Napoli striker simply because Higuain delivered for him in the Serie A. He wanted a Sarri-ball striker.
The Italian's template succeeds or fails on the quality and speed of his side's one-touch passing, with attacking moves generally flowing through Jorginho.
Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud slowed things down, whereas Higuain maintained Chelsea's attacking momentum, albeit against lowly Huddersfield.
Higuain's precision will be put to the test in a month that will define his club, his manager and arguably the EPL race itself.
Chelsea take on City twice - first in the EPL, then the League Cup final. They face Manchester United in the FA Cup and then Tottenham Hotspur in the league while also contending with a tricky trip to Malmo in the Europa League.
By the end of the month, the Blues' imprint will be stamped across four competitions, but none more so than the EPL, where they'll battle a couple of title challengers.
Higuain's role will be pivotal throughout.
Against Newcastle, Arsenal and Everton, City's defence never looked entirely settled, a weakness underlined by their own manager. Pep Guardiola continues to rotate his centre-backs, but a reliable partnership eludes him.
Higuain will seek to profit from Guardiola's uncertainty and those outside the City bubble should pray that Chelsea's on-loan forward succeeds for one, rather dispiriting, reason.
If the experienced marksman can't hit the target against City's lethargic defence, what chance has anyone else got?