City must go for jugular against Chelsea
Man City can forget about gatecrashing Chelsea's title party with same display against Arsenal
Chelsea's players could have been forgiven for refusing to pop the champagne corks.
Logic dictates that the EPL's runaway leaders, still smarting from a shock 2-1 defeat by Crystal Palace on Saturday, were never going to face any genuine threats to their crown at the final furlong.
Manchester City's 2-2 draw with Arsenal yesterday morning (Singapore time) should have merely confirmed that the title would be heading back to Stamford Bridge.
With nine games remaining, Pep Guardiola's side may stand 11 points adrift of their west London counterparts, but they have overcome greater obstacles.
Overhauling an eight-point deficit against Manchester United in their final seven games of the 2011/12 season became the stuff of legend.
Repeating that feat now appears somewhat fanciful.
But City remain partial to gatecrashing premature title celebrations, especially when their own fate is still far from determined.
The Blues' plans for an early procession on Thursday morning could now run into some unforeseen difficulties.
To do so, and ensuring that a potential Champions League qualification shortfall is avoided, Guardiola must scour his play book from the see-saw stalemate at the Emirates Stadium.
In truth, it should have been more perfunctory.
City's attacking charges had done all the hard work in the first half; pummelling the Gunners in anticipation of landing a sucker punch.
Guardiola, however, opted for kid gloves instead of a knockout blow.
Times have significantly changed since calling on Yaya Toure was considered a de facto solution to games that were in danger of getting away from City.
Offering stability remains the ageing Ivorian's key commodity, but it was not required at Raheem Sterling's expense.
Admittedly, the England winger had been off-key once more, failing to score in a seventh game for club and country, although Toure's introduction was an antithesis to what should have been a comfortable second-half consolidation of their winning margin.
Guardiola's relationship with his former Barcelona lieutenant has been fraught at best and the decision to welcome him back in from the wilderness is yet to vindicate the City manager.
Confronting it with the blistering pace of Eden Hazard, a standout contender for the EPL's Player of the Year, is unlikely to offer any further supporting evidence to Guardiola's case.
Marrying a well-stocked attack with the presence of mind that a midfield anchor offers may have previously worked with great effect, but City are still some considerable fine-tuning away from emulating the title-winning teams he fashioned with the Catalan giants and Bayern Munich.
Toure appeared everything he has become - an underused 33-year-old who is off the pace - rather than the marauding powerhouse he once was.
Challengers to his long-standing throne remain in abundance with opposite number N'Golo Kante likely to offer another masterclass in the art of enforcement.
Toure can no longer justifiably claim to even be the best player in his role from Africa due to the effervescence of Idrissa Gana Gueye at Everton during the current campaign.
His continuing on-field deterioration highlighted Guardiola's obsession with prioritising minor details over genuine areas of concern, with Sergio Aguero's perceived lack of work-rate being another high-profile example instead of Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne's tribulations.
De Bruyne left Stamford Bridge at a loss as to why Jose Mourinho had disposed of his services.
Across Manchester, there may be a wry smile of justification from the "Special One" at his former protege failing to score in 11 previous outings across three competitions.
The woodwork denied him twice at the Emirates Stadium and doubts already persist over the ingenuity of his assist for Leroy Sane's opener.
But goals do not often reveal the full story of the Belgian's influence, as a Man-of-the-Match showing against Monaco in February outlined.
But in a flooded attacking line, with Fernandinho constituting his side's only non-attacking influence from a six-man forward line, de Bruyne found himself forced to drop deeper in order to maintain what little influence he was afforded on proceedings.
City's most sparkling form in a largely disjointed campaign coincided with de Bruyne operating at the heart of its attacks, and with Aguero often the key beneficiary in front of goal.
Cesar Azpilicueta's error-strewn showing against Palace promises a host of gilt-edged opportunities for the former Chelsea misfit, providing he is allowed to take the lead again.
Not all of Guardiola's experiments have been flawed, as Jesus Navas' renaissance as a makeshift fullback proved in stifling Alexis Sanchez.
Frustrating a tour de force that boasts Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro Rodriguez may prove to be easier said than done a second time around.