LONDON. — Pep Guardiola said his Manchester City side were “back” on Sunday after they outclassed Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge to move into the top five of the English Premier League football table.
City struck three times in 16 minutes in the first-half with Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne on target as the visitors sent out a warning to the title contenders.
“We played really well. Unfortunately the last goal but the result at Stamford Bridge is fantastic. Today we were back like we were. An important win at Chelsea away,” Guardiola said.
“The English Premier League is weird for everything. Everything is weird, just have to be focused during the games but otherwise relax. Hopefully in the Premier League in the last six, seven games we can be there fighting.”
City are now unbeaten in seven games and are only four points behind leaders Liverpool and Manchester United having played a game less. At times during the first half they played the kind of football that brought back-to-back titles.
Even more impressive was the fact that Guardiola was without six players who were isolating because of a Covid-19 outbreak at the club, including keeper Ederson, Ferran Torres, Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus while Riyad Mahrez and Sergio Aguero were only on the bench after injuries.
“The result is incredible for us, especially the way that we played,” Guardiola said. “Chelsea are one of the strongest teams, but we had a plan and tried to play how we’ve done in the past and it worked, the players were fantastic.
“We have to play to our rhythm. We won the Premier League like that, more patient, more calm, and we’ve missed that tempo a little bit for many reasons.
“The way we won the two Premier League titles was like today.”
Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne said he was delighted that his team had rediscovered their ruthlessness in Sunday’s 3-1 Premier League victory at Chelsea, although it felt a “bit bizarre” to play as a striker.
With the club’s record goalscorer Aguero on the bench as he manages his knee injury and fellow striker Gabriel Jesus out after contracting Covid-19, De Bruyne was moved forward and the Belgian responded with a goal and an assist.
“Bit bizarre in the beginning,” De Bruyne told Sky Sports when asked about his experience.
“I’ve done it a few times in my career . . . Obviously we have a lot of forwards out and the coach asked me to do this job, so I tried my best to do it as good as possible.”
Victory means City are unbeaten in seven league games and fifth in the table with 29 points from 15 matches, four points behind leaders Liverpool with a game in hand.
“It’s important we win one of these big games. This season we had played some good games but not won any of them so we have shown we can win the big games,” De Bruyne said.
“We’re still fighting an uphill battle but we are getting closer, that’s all we can do now.
“The years we were champions we were winning big games. It’s a bit different this year because everyone is losing points. We had a bad start but we are coming back so it’s a good thing we’re here fighting and that’s all we can do now.”
While City are back, Chelsea appear to be going backwards after a fourth defeat in six league games.
They actually started well on Sunday, but had no answer to City once they clicked into gear.
“For 10 minutes we were good, then they started to play and we concede two poor goals back-to-back in the game. It knocked us and we didn’t react well,” Lampard, whose side have dropped to eighth in the table, said.
“Serious lessons in the first half, good character in the second half but then the game was done. When a team gives you a problem it has to be dealt with but we didn’t.”
Meanwhile, Manchester City boss Guardiola has defended Benjamin Mendy after the full back breached Covid-19 protocols on New Year’s Eve, saying the Frenchman’s critics were too quick to pass judgment.
Mendy apologised for flouting rules by hosting a party attended by at least three people outside his household. Under British government guidelines, those living in regions with Tier 4 restrictions are not allowed to mix with others outside their own household.
“Normally in this society we judge, but society will be better if we judge ourselves. I’m not justifying him, he broke the rules. But don’t give too many lessons to the other ones,” Guardiola told reporters after Sunday’s 3-1 win over Chelsea.