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Champions elect Manchester City face faltering Chelsea

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have scored more than 100 goals in all competitions this season. Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Manchester City can go 18 points clear at the top of the English Premier League on Sunday if they beat last season’s champions Chelsea who are scrambling to finish in the four places that lead to next season's Uefa Champions League.

Liverpool rose to second place on 60 points on Saturday night with a 2-0 win over Newcastle United.

And with nine games remaining, City can take another step towards the title at the expense of the west Londoners who go into the match five points adrift of fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur who eased past Huddersfield Town 2-0 on Saturday.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has repeatedly clashed with the club's hierarchy over his lack of input into the 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.

"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."

City's Emirati owners spent lavishly in the transfer windows to refresh Pep Guardiola’s squad after his first season in charge ended without any baubles.

"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 Premier League.

Guardiola publicly thanked the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour, and chairman, Khaldoon al Mubarak, after City beat Arsenal in the League Cup final on 25 February to lift the first trophy of his reign.

"The people have to know that if you want to compete in a high level in competitions you need good players," Guardiola said. "The good players make good managers, good clubs."

If Chelsea do miss out on the Champions League for the second time in three seasons, it could spell the end of Conte’s time at Stamford Bridge. The Italian joined in the summer of 2016 soon after steering Italy to the last eight at the European Championships.

The former Juventus coach guided Chelsea to the Premier League title and the FA Cup final.

Though they are in the last eight of that competition and in the last 16 of the Uefa Champions League, their continuation in that tournament is under threat. Chelsea  travel to Barcelona next week to play the second leg after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.