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Chelsea and Manchester City drew 1-1 in their top-of-the-table Premier League clash at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, leaving Jose Mourinho's team five points clear of City but with the champions still believing they can retain their title.
Chelsea's run of 10 straight home league wins came to an end when David Silva cancelled out Loic Remy's opener just before half-time. There were no further goals, and very few on-target attempts in the second half which City edged in terms of possession.
Chelsea had lost 4-2 at home in the FA Cup last Saturday to third tier Bradford City but bounced back with a 1-0 win over Liverpool in the League Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
City, also beaten at home last week in the FA Cup by lower league opponents Middlesbrough, were still too tough an obstacle and Chelsea only managed three shots, their lowest total in a game since 2003-04.
The result left Chelsea top on 53 points, five ahead of City on 48 with Manchester United, 3-1 winners over Leicester City at Old Trafford, third on 43.
Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool maintained their challenges for a top four finish with Spurs winning 3-0 at West Bromwich Albion to move up to fifth on 40.
Liverpool are seventh on 38 after beating West Ham United 2-0 at Anfield where Daniel Sturridge scored on his return after five months out with various injuries.
If Chelsea had beaten City they would have opened up an eight point gap with 15 matches to play but midfielder Nemanja Matic told Sky Sports they were not too disappointed.
"We expected three points from today but a draw is a good result for both teams. We both had some chances but we are still five points ahead and we are happy with that."
City boss Manuel Pellegrini thought his men should have won.
"We played a very good game. One team wanted to play from the beginning. The only chance Chelsea got they scored a beautiful goal. In the second half Chelsea defended very well, but I am very proud about our team - to have the personality to come here and try to win from first minute to end."
There was a memorable moment 14 minutes from time when Frank Lampard, who played nearly 650 times for Chelsea over 13 years and is their all-time leading scorer, came on for City to a mainly warm reception from his former fans.
In September at the Etihad he came on and scored City's late equaliser in a 1-1 draw, but that didn't happen again as the game petered out.
"It was a bit of a strange day to be honest," Lampard told Sky Sports.
"But I enjoyed it. The result changes nothing but I was pleased to have an ovation at the end and share that with the Chelsea fans because I didn't get that at the back end of last year."
Earlier, England striker Sturridge celebrated his return after his long lay-off when he came off the bench to score Liverpool's second goal.
Sturridge, who last played on Aug. 31, came on in the 68th minute and found the net 12 minutes later to seal the points for Liverpool who went ahead through Raheem Sterling six minutes into the second half.
Manchester United avenged their shock 5-3 defeat at Leicester City in September when they crushed Nigel Pearson's bottom-of-the-table side to maintain their challenge for a Champions League place.
Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and an own goal by Wes Morgan before halftime put United in command against Leicester who replied with a consolation from Marcin Wasilewski 10 minutes from the end.
Spurs also maintained their push for a Champions League spot, racing into a 2-0 lead in 15 minutes at The Hawthorns thanks to goals from Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane.
Kane then added the third with a second-half penalty, his 20th goal of the season.
The only winners among the bottom eight clubs were Sunderland, who beat Burnley 2-0 thanks to goals from Connor Wickham and Jermain Defoe, who scored his first goal for his new club after 34 minutes.
League leaders Chelsea stayed five points clear of champions Manchester City at the top of the Premier League after the two frontrunners in the title race fought to 1-1 stalemate at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The goals came in a three minute spell before halftime with Chelsea the first to strike after 41 minutes when Branislav Ivanovic crossed for Eden Hazard, whose low ball across goal found Loic Remy who side-footed it into the empty net.
City equalised three minutes later when Jesus Navas crossed into the area. Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois failed to clear properly, sending the ball to Sergio Aguero whose goalbound shot was turned in by David Silva.
Man City's Frank Lampard: "I was excited... but nervous. I was delighted with the reception from both sets of fans" pic.twitter.com/uofeUf6hIm
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 31, 2015
Chelsea's all-time record scorer Frank Lampard was given a warm reception by his old fans when he came on for City with 14 minutes remaining and although City finished the stronger side they could not find the winner.
Chelsea stay top with 53 points, followed by City on 48 with Manchester United third on 43.
Chelsea remain five points clear after virtually parking the bus against a rampant City who kept probing in the second half without success.
Man City boss Manuel Pellegrini: "We played a very good game and we went for the three points from the beginning" pic.twitter.com/GXtThz2aYX
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 31, 2015
Chelsea 1 (Remy 41") City 1 (Silva 45")
90+3" Chelsea defend in the final frantic minutes as they hold on to share the points.
90+2" Loftus-Creek comes in a last minute replacement with Oscar making way.
90+1" Anxious moments for Chelsea as Navas hits a corner short.
90" Three minutes of stoppage time had been added with Milner's cross being headed away by Zouma.
89" Silva makes way for Jovetic.
88" Remy makes way for Cahill but City go close through Milner whose shot is across goal.
86" City are dominating possession denying Chelsea the ball virtually boxing them in.
83" Aguero is substituted by super sub Dzeko.
82" Drogba earns a free kick but Oscar's free kick is headed to safety.
80" Drogba comes on with Willian hobbling off.
78" Lampard is playing behind Aguero as City attempt to convert possession into another goal.
76" The Bridge erupts as Chelsea legend Lampard comes in as a substitute for City's Fernando.
72" YELLOW! Fernando is booked for a nasty tackle on Hazard but the free kick comes to nothing.
70" It's all City with Willian and Hazard only getting a brief touch of possession to orchestrate any moves.
68" Silva's teasing free kick is headed away by Azpilicueta.
66" Drogba comes of the bench to warm up to inject more bite to the Chelsea attack.
65" Milner's meets a cross from Navas but his header lands on the roof of the net with Courtois watchful.
62" Willian's free kick after Ramires is bundled to the ground by Fernando sails out of reach.
61" Aguero slips after a bout of passing with Navas.
60" Matic brings off a superb tackle to stop Clichy from breaking away on the left.
59" Matic gets away after a nasty tackle from behind on Silva.
58" Silva lofts one into the box but Milner is blown offside.
56" Courtois tips away a bouncing header from Fernandino and the corner is headed away.
55" Zouma brings off a great tackle on the charging Milner while Sagna heads the corner into the side netting.
52" YELLOW! David Silva is the first player to be booked after tripping Matic on the halfway.
50" Mourinho and Pellegrini are squaring up on the touch line with the fourth official in the middle.
48" Lampard is applauded as he heads off to warm up.
46" Chelsea get the second half underway with no changes at the break.
Chelsea 1 (Remy 41") City 1 (Silva 45")
45" GOAL! David Silva has equalised by turning in a brilliant shot from Aguero with Courtois caught off his line after punching away Navas' cross.
Chelsea 1 (Remy 41") City 0
41" GOAL! Chelsea have struck through Remy who put the finishing touches to a sweeping move which began with Ivanovic lofting over the defence while Hazard sends a lovely pass inside.
38" Silva loses the ball and Hazard launches another counter before it is foiled.
36" Mourinho is fuming as Hazard limps after a tough tackle but concedes a free kick himself.
34" City are swarming all over Chelsea half and look more likely to score.
32" Aguero has the best chance of the match after a breakaway while Ramires appeals for a handball but the Argentine's side foots it just wide of the far post.
30" Oscar shoots rather tamely straight to Hart after a brilliant move from Remy and Hazard's touch after Kompany is outflanked.
28" Milner's corner sails harmlessly across with the players involved in a bout of wrestling.
26" Hazard brilliantly wriggles free of Fernando and Navas before being brought down.
24" Milner steals the ball from Ivanovic and gives Aguero a sniff of a chance but his left footed shot is punched away by Courtois.
22" Willian supplies a lovely through ball to Remy but the flag was already raised.
20" Chelsea have yet to slip into the City box whose defence is rock solid.
18" Hazard attempts a counter attack but the City defence recover to snuff out the threat.
17" Ramires is brought down by Fernandinho while Aguero is tackled by Zouma at the other end.
15" Silva sends Navas away on the right but his cross fails to find Aguero.
14" Hazard finally makes his move weaving through on the right for corner which is headed away by Terry.
12" Willian is battling for possession in midfield but Hazard is giving it away easily.
10" City have created the best chances so far with Aguero lurking.
8" Fernandinho breaks on the right and fires across taking a deflection for a corner.
5" Oscar tries to slip Remy through but Demichelis steps in to take the ball off his feet.
3" Chelsea on the attack after a shaky start with Oscar and Willian making forays while Kompany stands firm in defence.
2" Hazard is charged down by Fernandinho but the referee Mark Clattenburg signals for play to continue.
1" City get the big match of the night under way and Navas takes the first shot at goal straight at Courtois.
Legends Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard are on the bench for the titanic Premier League clash at The Bridge.
Remy plays ahead of Drogba while Ramires is in for Fabregas in Chelsea's line up.
Chelsea: Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Remy.
Subs: Cech, Cahill, Christensen, Ake, Loftus-Cheek, Brown and Drogba
Man City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany (C), Demichelis, Clichy, Navas, Fernando, Fernandinho, Milner, Silva, Aguero
Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Boyata, Kolarov, Lampard, Jovetic, Dzeko
Man City 4-2-3-1
Chelsea will be without Diego Costa serving a three-match ban followings incidents during the midweek League Cup clash against Liverpool.
Ivanovic, Luis and Fabregas all picked up injuries. If Fabregas is unable to play, Mourinho will have to choose between Mikel and Ramires.
City's form has dipped in the absence of Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony who are on national duty for Ivory Coast.
Manager Pellegrini is weighing the option of starting with Frank Lampard against his former club.
Chelsea have won their last 10 home matches in the Premier League
Man City are unbeaten in their last six away matches in the Premier League
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini insists a defeat in Saturday’s crunch clash against leaders Chelsea wouldn’t be a fatal blow to the champions’ chances of retaining the Premier League title.
Pellegrini’s side already trail Chelsea by five points heading into the showdown at Stamford Bridge and a loss would leave them languishing eight points behind with 15 games to play.
But Pellegrini remembers how City, then managed by his predecessor Roberto Mancini, won the title in 2012 despite falling eight points behind Manchester United at a much later stage of the campaign.
He is convinced an equally dramatic fightback is possible even if the result goes against them in west London.
“I think it is a very important game but it is not the game that will decide the title because after that we have to play for 45 points more,” Pellegrini said.
“If you remember some years ago this club won the title after being eight points behind Manchester United, so in football you never know.”
City’s hopes of securing a first win at the Bridge since 2010 were boosted on Friday when Chelsea striker Diego Costa was handed a three-match ban for stamping on Liverpool’s Emre Can during the League Cup semi-final second leg in midweek.
Not having to face Spain international Costa, who has 17 goals in 19 league appearances this season, is a huge lift for City, who have struggled badly since their own talismanic star, Ivory Coast midfielder Yaya Toure, departed for African Cup of Nations duty.
Toure’s exit has coincided with a run of three games without a win for City, including damaging back-to-back home defeats against Arsenal in the league and then second tier Middlesbrough in the FA Cup, but Pellegrini says his team must take responsibility for filling the void.
“I say always the same thing, in this case for Diego Costa or Yaya, big teams with important squads cannot depend on just one player. I think it is a very important miss for both teams but they have other players to replace him,” Pellegrini said.
The controversy over Costa’s ban has overshadowed another intriguing sub-plot — the first return of City midfielder Frank Lampard to his former club.
Blues legend Lampard is Chelsea’s record goalscorer but he wasn’t expected to be back at the Bridge in an opposition shirt when he was released at the end of last season and appeared to have signed a contract with New York FC.
He eventually joined City instead and scored a late equaliser against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at Eastlands earlier this season.
That has left some uncertainty over what reception the 36-year-old might get at his old ground, but Pellegrini has no doubt he should be applauded.
“He gave so many things to that club. If he couldn’t continue playing there, he can play here. That is not his fault,” he said.
A City defeat would offer encouragement to Southampton and Manchester United that they could leapfrog Pellegrini’s team.
But third-placed Southampton, five points behind City, host Swansea on Sunday with boss Ronald Koeman battling a growing injury list.
Already hit by injuries to Toby Alderweireld, Victor Wanyama, Morgan Schneiderlin, Sam Gallagher and Jay Rodriguez, the Saints suffered another blow this week when Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long was ruled out for six weeks with fractured ribs.
United, sitting 12 points adrift of Chelsea in fourth place, need to get back on track against bottom of the table Leicester after failing to beat fourth-tier Cambridge in the FA Cup last week.
That lacklustre display underlined United’s problems in attack this season.
Dutch forward Robin van Persie has scored just once in his last six appearances and he lifted the lid on his team’s frustration in some candid comments this week.
“Obviously we are not scoring enough goals, including me,” van Persie said.
“Everyone feels responsible. I do, definitely. This year I have played something like 20 games and I have scored eight goals.
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