Premier League champions Chelsea travel to Manchester City on Sunday 22 points adrift of the side destined to take their crown and fighting just to salvage a place in the top four.
Antonio Conte’s men could be five points adrift of the Champions League places by the time they kick-off at the Etihad (1600GMT) with Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool hosting struggling Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively on Saturday.
The Italian is strongly rumoured to be on his way out as boss at Stamford Bridge come what may in the remainder of the season despite Chelsea still competing on three fronts.
Conte has repeatedly clashed with the Chelsea hierarchy over his lack of input into the club’s recruitment policy.
He hinted at his frustrations once more when asked how City had overturned a 15-point deficit on Chelsea last season into such a commanding lead with still 10 games of the Premier League season to go.
“When you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work in the way you want, to try to improve your team in the best way,” Conte said.
“Manchester City has the possibility to spend a lot of money.
“When you link this situation, good manager, much money to spend in the transfer market, the same ambition, this is the final result.”
Should he go, Conte will be ninth manager to leave in the Roman Abramovitch era, with Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink enjoying two spells each in charge in that time.
By contrast, City’s cash-rich Emirati owners stood by Guardiola after a disappointing trophyless first season, and doubled down by spending reportedly over 300 million euros (£266 million, $366 million) in the transfer market to bolster Guardiola’s squad.
“Of course we buy a lot of players and they help us a lot,” said Guardiola after easing past Arsenal 3-0 on Thursday to open up a 16-point lead at the top of the table.
Guardiola also publicly thanked the club’s owner Sheikh Mansour and chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak after delivering his first trophy in the League Cup over Arsenal last weekend.
“The people have to know that if you want to compete in a high level in competitions you need good players,” he added. “The good players make good managers, good clubs.”
Guardiola insisted City will be more frugal this summer with only “one or two signings” to come.
But the Catalan coach defended City’s huge spending power as necessary to catch up and surpass more established clubs at the top of the Premier League.
“In a club like Manchester City you can achieve what we have done in maybe 20 years, but they have tried to invest to get it done a bit quicker to reduce that gap.
“To be there, in every season, trying to compete and be the only team in England that every single season is in the Champions League.”
That could come at Chelsea’s cost as they face missing out on the Champions League for second time in three seasons.
In the past Abramovitch’s wealth has been able to mask a lack of stability provoked by a revolving door of coaches.
Now, though, even the Russian billionaire can’t match City’s petro-dollars.
Moreover, the looming threat of no Champions League windfall and the huge cost a stadium rebuild on the horizon makes bridging the gap whether for Conte, or his successor, a huge ask.