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Soccer’s Super Bowl

Man City and Chelsea played a classic.

Billy’s Premier League Beat

While the English Premier League may not have a winner-take-all style contest at the end of the season to decide who takes home the EPL Championship, this Saturday’s contest between Manchester City and Chelsea was the closest thing to a Super Bowl that international soccer has seen this season.

Both sets of blues, the royal blues of Chelsea, and the sky blues of Man City have been neck and neck at the top of the Premier League table this season. With Chelsea holding leads as much as eight points, but Man City battling back to close the gap on many occasions.

While Man City has certainly presented itself as the greatest collection of talent in the Premier League, Chelsea has clearly emerged as the best team. This much was evident on Saturday, as Man City, despite holding the majority of possession throughout the game, could not break through a staunch Chelsea defense. While many fans would be quick to jump to the conclusion that Chelsea simply played its characteristic negative soccer, placing many men behind the ball and simply absorbing the Man City attack, that was simply not the case.

Remy put Chelsea on the board first.

Remy put Chelsea on the board first.

 

Chelsea actually struck first behind some masterful runs by Loic Remy, the backup striker playing in place of suspended Spaniard Diego Costa. Chelsea constantly pressed the Manchester City defense, moving the ball down the wing and looking for in swinging crosses to find the heads of some Chelsea attacker.

While Chelsea were unsuccessful in breaking down Manchester City in all but that one moment of brilliance, their chemistry on the field was readily apparent to any casual fan observing the game. Midfielders constantly found their wings in the right spot, and apart from a positioning issue late in the game when Jose Mourinho brought on Didier Drogba, Chelsea were impeccable in maintaining the shape of their formation, which allowed them to compete on an extremely high level.

On the other hand, Manchester City did not demonstrate that same commitment to formation, but made up for it in the incredible skill of their players, namely on the attacking side.

Silva and Aguero combined to hammer home the equalizer.

Silva and Aguero combined to hammer home the equalizer.

 

Even with Yaya Toure, who has been the engine of the Manchester City midfield for the better part of a decade, City were able to move the ball forward with ease, against a very talented Chelsea defense. The combination play between David Silva and Sergio Aguero is nothing short of amazing, and led to the only City goal at Stamford Bridge.

No other pair of teammates in the entire Premier League could create the goal that Silva and Aguero hammered home, as the footwork and precise ball placement required for such a strike requires a ridiculous level of skill that simply eludes most players. Additionally, the return of Frank Lampard to Stamford Bridge was an extremely special moment, and felt a bit like Favre with the Vikings or Montana with the Chiefs for American sports fans. It’s always nice to see a club legend return for a standing ovation at the place he once called home.

Much love for Lampard.

Much love for Lampard.

My biggest takeaway from Man City-Chelsea is just how important a game like that can be when growing the soccer fan base in the United States. Americans love winner-take-all, and while there are still 15 games to be played in the Premier League, this Saturday’s contest felt a bit like a playoff game of sorts.

It will be a riveting title race this season, with it likely coming down to the final month of the season, but games like that don’t happen every week. It was truly the Super Bowl of soccer.

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