Manchester City will have more than just revenge on their minds against Chelsea on Saturday, with Pep Guardiola’s men risking leaving themselves with a mountain to climb in the Premier League title race.
A frustrating 0-0 home draw to Southampton last week lent weight to the argument that they lack the predatory striker needed to keep up with a stronger roster of title contenders than last season.
The Guardiola champions are just three points behind Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool after five games of the season.
But that gap can easily grow over the course of a demanding week ending with a trip to Liverpool at Anfield after a midweek date against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
Thomas Tuchel denied Guardiola the pinnacle of his time at City by coming out on top in the tactical battle as the Blues won the Champions League final in May.
The victory in Porto completed a hat-trick of victories for Chelsea over City towards the end of last season, which laid the foundation for a Premier League turnaround for the Stamford Bridge side.
Another win this weekend would mean Tuchel would become the first manager to beat Guardiola in four consecutive games.
The German’s almost flawless start to English football has continued into the first weeks of this season.
– Lukaku Factor –
Chelsea took 13 points out of a possible 15 despite tough away games so far against Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham.
Crucially, Tuchel got what Guardiola didn’t get in the transfer window: a proven goalscorer.
Romelu Lukaku, who came over from Inter Milan, has already scored four goals in all competitions since returning to Stamford Bridge for a club-record £97.5 million ($134 million).
City have spent even more to make Jack Grealish the first-ever £100million Premier League player.
But the England international was only adding to a range of creative talents available to Guardiola, rather than addressing the need for a successor to Sergio Aguero.
City’s hunt for Harry Kane backfired, Tottenham refused to sell and interest in Cristiano Ronaldo ended when the five-time Ballon d’Or winner returned to Manchester’s red half with United.
Without a proven number nine, this season has been a feast or famine for City’s goal.
They passed Norwich and Arsenal five times and did one better against Leipzig in their Champions League opener and when Wycombe visited the Etihad in the League Cup mid-week.
But they failed to score when it mattered against Southampton and in a 1-0 loss to Tottenham in their first league game of the campaign.
There is potential help with the return of injured duo Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden, who both scored against Wycombe.
Last season City could afford a slow start, winning just five of their first 12 league games.
Back then, Chelsea had been in charge for the last few months of Frank Lampard’s disappointing spell, Liverpool were ravaged by injuries and United did not have Ronaldo.
If they fail to catch their losing point against Chelsea from Tuchel and win at Anfield, where City have not triumphed in front of audiences since 2003, the champions would be worryingly adrift.