Barcelona are back, and they play in Sky Blue.
First half goals from Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne saw City win easily at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea snatching a consolation at the whistle through Callum Hudson-Odoi.
It was that sort of performance, a throwback to the City of previous years, utterly outplaying teams who are supposedly their rivals.
However, the opening 15 minutes gave no indication whatsoever of what was to ensue. City’s front four were struggling to get the ball and adapt to their roles, with Chelsea dominating both ball and territory.
Despite this dominance, Chelsea’s only attempt came after Zack Steffen inexplicably picked up a 30 yard backpass from Rodri while under no pressure. Luckily for the away side, Hakim Ziyech’s drive was well charged down by Gundogan.
From City’s first foray forward, they created easily the best chance of the match. Quick passing saw Joao Cancelo in an advanced position, and his accurate pass slipped in Kevin de Bruyne 1v1. Once again, the Belgian failed to convert the chance, with his profligacy in front of goal continuing as he dragged the ball a yard wide.
Although the chance was missed, the game had suddenly swung.
Just two minutes later, City led. Gundogan had been finding pockets of space on the edge of the box, and when Foden found him again he turned brilliantly, sending Thiago Silva for a hotdog and curling in past Edouard Mendy.
Moments later, it was two. De Bruyne was now dictating the game, and he tried to slip in Foden after the latter made an excellent driving run inside of Cesar Azpilicueta. Although Thiago Silva slid in to cut it out, the ball came back to de Bruyne, who made no mistake in slipping it across to Foden who classily finished at the near post.
City then had half chances to make it three, but when they actually did so it was courtesy of a horrible error by N’golo Kante.
A Chelsea freekick was cleared to Kante, the last man, with Sterling bearing down on him. In his panic, he hooked the ball straight to de Bruyne, who headed forward to Sterling who was now completely alone and running at the Chelsea goal.
Naturally, the winger could not finish simply. He went past Mendy, then cut back, then cut inside Kurt Zouma before finally curling an effort across goal and onto the post. The ball bounced down to de Bruyne, who made it look so easy to control and finish low down.
With only 34 minutes played, it was game over.
City almost made it four on the stroke of halftime, with another Barcelona-esque move ripping Chelsea’s defence to shreds, but Foden’s cross to Gundogan was just behind the German, with his improvised flick heading just wide.
Half time: Chelsea 0-3 Manchester City
The second half kicked off with City all over a Chelsea team who could not get out of their half- not helped by the frequency of which they lost possession.
In the first five minutes, Mendy just beat Foden to a through ball from Gundogan, Foden himself whipped a cross just in front of Rodri and de Bruyne was tackled just as he shot while well positioned.
From a freekick following a foul on Foden again, de Bruyne’s perfect delivery found the unmarked Rodri, but his powerful header was well tipped over by Mendy from close range.
From there, City were content to have Chelsea chasing shadows, with the clock ticking down as the away side ruthlessly retained possession. It seemed the closest Chelsea would get to a consolation was a long range attempt from Mateo Kovacic that headed well wide.
With 20 seconds of stoppage time remaining, however, City simply switched off. Substitute Kai Havertz was freed down the channel, and he crossed to the equally unmarked Callum Hudson-Odoi to easily convert.
It was a goal that will frustrate Guardiola and City, as it was not merited in any way from the pattern of the game.
Nevertheless, the whistle blew with City up to fifth, and still with a game in hand on everyone around them. Chelsea are on a worrying run of form, and can count themselves fortunate the scoreline did not reflect more heavily against them.
Full time: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Ilkay Gundogan
Foden and de Bruyne are maybe unfortunate here, but the plaudits go to the silky central midfielder today. He set the tone with the opener, constantly beat his opponents in midfield with his passing and dribbling abilities, and helped control the orchestra of City attacks. A wonderful performance.