Over the past two weeks, you would be hard pressed to find a team that is playing better than Chelsea have. Only Barcelona are comparable in form due to Lionel Messi's 50 billion goals.
In what was surely the toughest stretch of games Chelsea had played all season, they played four matches in 12 days. Three of them were elimination games and the other was a must-win in the league to keep pace with Arsenal for the fourth spot.
In that stretch they faced two good Championship sides, a very physical Stoke City and one of the better teams in all of Europe, Napoli. They handled all with the same kind of conviction and determination we used to expect out of this side.
It was more than just the winning; it was how they did so, outscoring their opponents 12-3, with all three of those goals against being nothing short of wonder strikes by the scorers. The defense was in vintage form—something to the liking of what we saw back in 2004, when the fortress of Stamford Bridge became a dead-ball zone for opposing strikers.
On the offensive side they have been equal to the back line. Not necessarily ripping the net away, they have been doing what they could not all season—making the most of their chances. They have finally found the net and though it is not “pretty,” it is the most effective attack in the Premier League over that stretch.
Compare that to what is going on at the Etihad.
The Citizens, who were once squarely in charge of their own destiny, have slipped as of late like so many novice clubs do.
In the same span of games as Chelsea, they find themselves with two losses and two wins. However, one of those wins was meaningless; their 3-2 victory over Sporting in the Europa League was not enough to make up the aggregate and they were knocked out of European competition for the second time this season.
The other win was a 2-0 win at home against Bolton. Though they came away with all three points, they needed an own goal by the Wanderers to keep it from being a nervy 1-0 contest.
A loss to Swansea in Wales had them dropping out of the top of the table as their supposed high-octane attack struggled to make anything happen against a mediocre defense at best.
The honest truth is that neither City nor Chelsea are the same as they were when they met the first time around. For the visitors, the change has been for the better.