Published:30 December 2020
On Monday night, Chelsea was kept at home in the Premier League by Aston Villa.
When Olivier Giroud headed in the opener, the home side had the best of a somewhat dour first half and was rewarded for some enterprising wing action.
Villa came out in the second half and quickly found an equaliser, Anwar El Ghazi finishing smartly following Matty Cash's cross with a more daring approach.
As John McGinn smacked the crossbar from range and Callum Hudson-Odoi saw a shot saved, there were opportunities for both teams to take the points, but the final 1-1 scoreline leaves both sides connected to Spurs, Man City and each other on points.
Chelsea opted for rotation in this game, no doubt a consequence of both a bad outcome last time out and the limited time between fixtures.
It's fair to say that there were winners and losers from the altered line-up of the home side; Callum Hudson-Odoi played well and was enormously involved in his team's best moments in the first half, while Giroud netted another goal after being reinstated in the attack, of course.
However, it was a different story at the rear, with neither Antonio Rudiger nor Andreas Christensen making a convincing argument for replacing Kurt Zouma more frequently.
Similarly, it was not a significant answer that Frank Lampard would have hoped to drop and then use Kai Havertz and Timo Werner from the bench.
With a win, any of these would have advanced into fourth place, provided that Man City's game against Everton was postponed later in the evening.
For both, then, a draw may feel a lost chance, but it also holds them both squarely in the mix where teams all around them begin to lose points of their own.
With Villa and Chelsea, both leapfrogging City on goal difference this evening, just one point separates fourth-place Manchester United from the eighth-place Man City.
Add only one point further back in Southampton, and Everton and Leicester are only two points ahead of United. This season there is an almighty scramble for European spots and even the opportunity for at least one team to do much more than would usually be considered possible.