Opinion: Chelsea could beat Manchester City to the Premier League title
For the first time ever, 3 Premier League clubs remain unbeaten after 12 games, with 86 goals already scored between them. The first signs suggest we may have an intriguing title race ahead.
There is no denying Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side are favourites to defend the Premier League title, but with a passionate Italian in charge at Stamford Bridge and an unpredictable Klopp in charge of Liverpool, a stern test lies ahead for Pep's expensively assembled squad.
If there is to be a slip from the Champions, one must agree that Chelsea will be ready and waiting to claim their 6th PL title. This slip may come as City and Liverpool pursue European success once more.
Sarri however has little of that to worry about, on Thursday evenings he is able to field a second team, given Chelsea's remarkable depth, against the likes of BATE. Sarri might just be able to claim the title in his first year in England.
Firstly, the depth Chelsea possesses is to be feared. Towards the end of Conte's reign, after a loss to Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, the former Chelsea boss mentioned his loss of sleep due to his squad lacking depth.
Compare this to a Telegraph headline less than a year later reading "Chelsea show off depth by thrashing Burnley without Eden Hazard", and it becomes clear the development in depth which has occurred at Chelsea.
The Blues signed 2 midfielders over the summer, Jorginho, who Sarri has had great success with before, and impressive dribbler, Kovacic, on loan from Real Madrid. As an in-form Barkley also breaks onto the Stamford Bridge scene, scoring 3 and assisting 3 already this season, depth in the midfield alone is undeniably fear-mongering.
Adding further class to this midfield is a two-time Premier League and World Cup winner in the form of humble Kante. Loftus-Cheek, who despite not being a regular starter has still scored 4 already this season in a Chelsea shirt, it is easy to grow jealous of Sarri's team options.
Furthermore, because Chelsea found themselves outside the top 4 last year, their season schedule is much less demanding than that of either Manchester City or Liverpool.
Arguably Chelsea has an extraordinary depth which they don't need, given the lack of true competition they will face in Europe, apart from in the latter stages of the competition. The Europa League allows Sarri to give rotation to his players on the pitch as they learn the 'Sarriball' system he aims to play, and the momentum can be carried into the league.
For Liverpool and City, there is no such privilege, Liverpool's latest 2-0 loss to Red Star shows the Champions League provides a challenge in the midweek on top of every weekend's battle in the Premier League.
Guardiola also experienced this when his side lost to Lyon 2-1 at home, but there is no denying that the 6-0 win over Shakhtar highlights Man City remain one of the favourites for the European title, having scored twice as many goals as Chelsea in the Europa League.
However, as both City and Liverpool are expected to reach the knockout stages of the competition, we can expect to see them drop points in the league. Evidence of Champions League games taking a toll on Klopp's men can be seen from last season.
Either side of Liverpool's second leg 2-1 win over Manchester City, they recorded draws to both Everton and a soon to be relegated West Brom side. Therefore in the latter stages of the season, European distraction may allow for Chelsea to knock the Manchester club off the top spot.
There are strong similarities between Guardiola's style of play and Sarri's. Guardiola himself said when referring to Sarri's Napoli side before their Champions League clash:
"Two teams with the same idea: high pressing, win the ball, short passes, dynamic in front. I am very pleased to face one of the coaches I admire the most".
Given the success Guardiola's tactics had last year, and the fact Chelsea remains unbeaten, there is an argument to suggest that Chelsea could do the same.
With enough creative depth in the midfield, a high defensive line allows an attacking possession-based game, and it's working, as Chelsea have scored 27 goals and conceded only 8 this season. Sarri brings a history of success with him from Italy, and there are obvious signs of more to come.
Finally, three main players will be important to whether Chelsea can keep the pressure on the Manchester blues. Firstly Hazard, netting 8 and assisting 4 already this season, there is no doubt that a fit Hazard could play a major role in winning the league, as he did in the 2015-16 season, scoring 16 with an average of 0.44 goals per match.
However there is an emphasis on fit, Hazard has already spent time on the sideline this year due to a back injury, and if Chelsea aims to maintain pressure on the likes of David Silva, De Bruyne, and Aguero, Sarri will need the 27 year old Belgian.
Secondly, Jorginho, Chelsea's new signing has had great success so far. Having played under Sarri before it is true to say he is the main messenger between the manager and the rest of the squad from his defensive midfield position. If Chelsea are to dethrone the Champions, Jorginho will have a major role to play.
Finally, N'Golo Kante, with 2 Premier League medals and a new World Cup medal, Sarri is fortunate to have him. However, as Jorginho assumes the DM role in Sarri's tactical system, Kante has found himself further forward, and there are questions to ask if he is comfortable there.
If the French international can find his creative touch in a more attacking role, he will have a momentous part to play in winning Chelsea's 6th PL trophy, and his 3rd Premier League medal.
Chelsea are in with a shout this year, having shown their early form, and given the possibility of a transfer ban looming, it may be now or never.