Manchester City celebrated a third successive Premier League title triumph with victory over Chelsea in a relaxed party atmosphere at Etihad Stadium.
City were confirmed as champions without even playing after Nottingham Forest’s win against Arsenal on Saturday, allowing manager Pep Guardiola to make nine changes from the side that thrashed Real Madrid to reach the Champions League final.
Erling Haaland was rested but Julian Alvarez provided the cutting edge in his absence with a clinical finish to put City ahead after 12 minutes, as their jubilant fans basked in warm sunshine waiting for the trophy presentations and celebrations.
Chelsea had some of the better chances as the game went on, with City’s deputy keeper Stefan Ortega saving from Raheem Sterling when clean through and Conor Gallagher heading against the post.
Kalvin Phillips headed against the woodwork for City as they closed out another win in the relentless run that has brought them the title and the chance of a Treble, with the FA Cup final at Wembley and Champions League final in Istanbul to come.
Man City demonstrate power
The hosts played with the pressure off after the title was secured and manager Guardiola was able to give members of his shadow squad game time on an occasion where most fans were simply waiting for the final whistle to hail their heroes.
Guardiola’s selection gave an illustration of the vast resources of talent he has at his disposal with simply a glance at City’s substitutes bench.
Haaland, Kevin de Bruyne, Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones, Jack Grealish, Rodri, Bernardo Silva, Ruben Dias and goalkeeper Ederson were able to sit this one out.
Has there ever been a more talented bench than that one?
They are all likely to be restored when those two big finals come around but it was a demonstration, if indeed it were needed, of what other teams must overcome if they are to loosen the stranglehold City have domestically and which now gives them the chance of their first Champions League.
Goalscorer Alvarez may have worked in Haaland’s shadow for much of the season but what an acquisition he has been and what a season he has had, with the chance to add the Treble to his World Cup win with Argentina.
The Premier League is Manchester City’s once more – now it is on to Wembley and Istanbul.
Chelsea must be ready for reset
Chelsea may have had some decent chances here and only lost by a single goal to the newly crowned champions, but they carry all the appearance of a team and club that cannot wait for an abject and miserable season to end.
Frank Lampard is seeing out time on the touchline before making his second departure as manager, while Chelsea’s players await the arrival of incoming Mauricio Pochettino to discover what the future has in store.
There is talent within this squad but they, and Chelsea as a club, have lacked direction under the new co-ownership of Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali and now it is time to start getting the big decisions right.
Pochettino will enter Stamford Bridge with the bar set low but there are materials to work with, providing he is allowed to do it his way, while his intense attacking style could fashion this into a quality team given time.
For now, however, Chelsea must complete the formalities of a desperate campaign that sees them currently in 12th place, and deservedly so.