Pep Guardiola is said to consider Chelsea as Manchester City’s most likely challengers next season for the Premier League title following their resurgence under Thomas Tuchel.
The two sides are set to go head-to-head in a blockbuster FA Cup semi-final clash on Saturday evening, with the Blues having the chance to not only deny the league leaders in their pursuit of an unprecedented quadruple, but also to lay down a marker ahead of next season’s title race.
At present, City are well on the way to a third league title in just four seasons, with the gap between themselves and second-placed Manchester United currently at 11 points, although the Red Devils do have the chance to reduced the defecit to just eight if they beat Burnley this weekend.
As for Tuchel’s men, they are still paying the cost for their sluggish first-half of the season under Frank Lampard, leaving them in a fierce battle for a top-four spot alongside the likes of Liverpool and West Ham United.
Although they could well still finish outside the coveted Champions League places, the evidence since the former Paris Saint-Germain boss walked in the door in January would suggest that the London club will be firm title challengers next term.
The Telegraph reports that the City boss views Chelsea as the ‘biggest rivals’ to another title success next season, the Blues’ expensive summer of recruitment having helped to close the gap and leave them with a squad ‘brimming with possibilities and potential’ as well as impressive depth.
With another busy summer expected at Stamford Bridge, they could improve even further next season, particularly with the German having been afforded a full pre-season in charge.
🗣️ "Tomorrow we're going to face one of the best teams in Europe without discussion…"
— SPORF (@Sporf) April 16, 2021
Even after coming in midway through the season, the 47-year-old has made a huge difference, turing a previously leaky defence into one of the most stubborn backlines in Europe, with 13 clean sheets from his opening 18 games in all competitions.
Their new-found defensive resilience has been crucial to the Blues’ progression to the Champions League semi-final’s, with Mehdi Taremi’s 93rd minute strike for Porto in midweek the only goal that they have conceded in four knockout games under Tuchel.
Their recent thumping win over Crystal Palace also illustrated what they can do when at their attacking best, making them a real dangerous prospect next season if they can marry up a solid defence and rampant attack, as well as if they invest well this summer.
Although it has happened so swiftly, Tuchel’s men have potentially already leap-frogged both Liverpool and Manchester United as City’s closest challengers for next season.
Jurgen Klopp’s side will look to return to full strength come the start of the next campaign, although it is unclear how much this difficult season has taken its toll pyschologically, while the specualtion regarding the future of the likes of Mo Salah and Sadio Mane could unsettle Jurgen Klopp’s men.
As for United, they’ve been the best of the rest behind City this year and have lost just four league games all season, yet they’re seemingly in need of strengthening in a few key areas, while doubts remain as to whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is at the level of the likes of Tuchel, Guardiola and Klopp to guide the Red Devils to a first league title since 2013.
See also – Tactical Preview: Manchester City vs Chelsea