Man City hit humiliated Chelsea for six to go top once more
Sergio Aguero grabbed a hat-trick as Manchester City scored four times inside 25 minutes to thrash Chelsea 6-0 and leapfrog Liverpool again to top spot in the Premier League on goal difference on Sunday.
Aguero should have had even more than three as the Argentine missed a glorious early chance and hit the bar in the second-half in a humiliating afternoon for Maurizio Sarri's men.
Raheem Sterling started and ended the scoring and Ilkay Gundogan also netted in the first quarter of the game as City ended what could have been a testing week with a trip to Everton in between the visits of Arsenal and Chelsea with maximum points.
Jurgen Klopp's men maintain the advantage of a game in hand, but handed a reprieve by Liverpool's draws against Leicester and West Ham in recent weeks, City look determined to become the first side in a decade to retain the Premier League.
Chelsea on the other hand slip to sixth with the scale of the defeat sure to raise further doubts over Sarri's future.
A 4-0 defeat to Bournemouth in their last away game was Chelsea's heaviest league defeat since 1996.
And this was their worst loss in any competition since 1991 after failing to recover from Sterling's fourth-minute opener.
Eden Hazard went to sleep from Kevin de Bruyne's quickly taken free-kick and Bernardo Silva had acres of space to cross for the England international to fire home.
Pep Guardiola had described this match as a "final" for his side given that Chelsea had a week to prepare, while City ground out a 2-0 win at Everton on Wednesday.
Guardiola fell to the floor in exasperation when Aguero somehow side-footed wide with his easiest chance of the game moments later.
But the Catalan coach need not have worried that would prove a costly miss as Aguero made amends in stunning fashion by blasting into the top corner from 25 yards to double City’s after just 13 minutes.
Aguero had a simple task to make it 3-0 six minutes later when he pounced on Ross Barkley's slack header towards his own goal.
And Gundogan's shot from the edge of the area then had too much power for the world's most expensive goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to compound Chelsea's woes.
Such was the defensive collapse at the other end, Gonzalo Higuain had little chance to shine but the Argentine striker was unfortunate not to score his third goal in as many league starts for Chelsea when Ederson turned over his dipping volley five minutes before the break.
That was as much of a response as Chelsea mustered, though, and it only got worse for Sarri's chances of keeping his job in the second period.
Aguero missed his first chance to seal a second hat-trick in two games when he headed against the crossbar.
But when Sterling was too quick for Cesar Azpilicueta and chopped down by the Spaniard inside the area, Aguero coolly slotted home from the penalty spot to move level with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah as the Premier League's top scorer on 17 for the season.
Even after Aguero went off to a standing ovation, City's strength in depth shone through as Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez and David Silva came off the bench.
And Silva's pass opened the visitors up again for the sixth as he picked out Oleksandr Zinchenko who crossed for Sterling to tap home.
31Ederson 2Walker 5Stones 14Laporte 35Zinchenko 8Gündogan 25Fernandinho 17De Bruyne 20Bernardo Silva 10Agüero 7Sterling
3Danilo 19Sané 21Silva 26Mahrez 30Otamendi 33Gabriel Jesus 49Muric
1Arrizabalaga 28Azpilicueta 2Rüdiger 30David Luiz 3Alonso 7Kanté 5Jorginho 8Barkley 11Pedro 9Higuaín 10E Hazard
12Loftus-Cheek 13Caballero 17Kovacic 18Giroud 22Willian 27Christensen 33Emerson
Can Sarri take solace in Guardiola's slow start at Man City?
Pep Guardiola and Maurizio Sarri share a mutual admiration and style of play, but as Chelsea visit Manchester City on Sunday, Sarri is also following Guardiola's experience of a difficult first year in England.
Long forgotten now after romping to the Premier League with a record 100 points last season, City suffered some serious growing pains in Guardiola's debut campaign.
Despite preparing for the Catalan's arrival for years with the hire of his former Barcelona colleagues Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain, City scraped into the top four in 2016/17 by just three points thanks to winning their final four league games.
Sarri acknowledged on Friday a return to Champions League football next season is Chelsea's target with a 12-point gap to City and Liverpool too big to bridge for the title.
The Blues enter the weekend holding onto fourth by two points from a surging Manchester United with Arsenal just a point further back.
That lead could be gone by kick-off at the Etihad, though, with United and Arsenal visiting the bottom two sides in the division Fulham and Huddersfield respectively on Saturday.
Yet, hope does exist for Chelsea should Sarri learn the same lessons Guardiola did after his first experience of the harsh winter months in English football.
Sarri did not suffer defeat for his first 18 games in charge until late November.
A run of five losses in 12 Premier League matches, most notably a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Bournemouth last month, has since taken the shine off the Italian's reputation.
Guardiola won his first 10 games in all competitions as City boss before things started to unravel.
A 2-0 win at Everton on Wednesday night that took City back to the top of the table on goal difference came almost two years to the day since his side were thrashed 4-0 at Goodison Park.
"People believe we arrive with good players, good clubs and everything immediately must work," said Guardiola on Friday of Sarri's current predicament.
"Sometimes you need more time but I think the season from Chelsea is exceptional."
'There is a gap'
Unfortunately for Sarri he may not be allowed the time Guardiola was afforded given the lengths City went to secure his signature and also the trigger happy culture at Chelsea under Roman Abramovich.
"We need to work. Guardiola is in his third season in the Premier League, (Liverpool manager, Jurgen) Klopp his fourth or fifth," said Sarri on Friday.
"You have to be more competitive in the market or you need to work. We have to work and try to reduce the gap because at the moment there is a gap."
The reference to the transfer market may prove another significant difference.
Guardiola was allowed over £250 million ($323 million) in transfer fees alone to transform his squad for last season on the likes of Ederson, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva.
Sarri is unlikely to be handed that sort of war chest to work with, but the former Napoli boss does finally have the striker he wanted after being reunited with Gonzalo Higuain in January.
The Argentine made an instant impact with his first two goals in just his second Premier League appearance in a 5-0 thrashing of Huddersfield last weekend to right the Chelsea ship after the Bournemouth debacle.
Higuain should not only add much needed firepower and a focal point to a Chelsea attack that had become toothless, but his presence also allows Eden Hazard to return to his preferred role on the left of the attack, from where he also scored twice against Huddersfield.
"He's very useful for Eden and they are really very suitable to play together," added Sarri.
Should Higuain and Hazard continue to hit it off, it will give Sarri some badly needed breathing space to try and follow Guardiola's lead by coming good in his second season.
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