Chelsea and Manchester City go head-to-head with each other at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, in the marquee Premier League clash of the weekend

The dreaded international break is upon us again. But before that, two of the early contenders for the Premier League title face off on Saturday when Chelsea host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. A win for the Blues will take them level on points with the visitors, who will look to create a six-point gap at the top of the table.

Chelsea’s form has been on the rise since the season-opening defeat to Burnley, winning all but one of their eight subsequent games in all competitions. Their most recent outing was a morale-boosting 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, as Antonio Conte’s men came from behind to achieve a popular result.

Meanwhile, Manchester City are unbeaten since the start of the season, winning eight of their nine matches thus far. In the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s men are a dominant force, having scored 21 goals already, and they come into this match on the back of a solid 2-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk.

The Premier League champions did the double over Manchester City last season enroute to winning the title, with the corresponding result ending with a 2-1 scoreline in their favour. Ahead of their latest meeting on Saturday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Antonio Conte does not have a lot of roster issues to deal with ahead of the visit of Manchester City on Saturday. In fact, the Chelsea boss will continue to remain without the services of just two first-team players due to suspension or injury problems.

Danny Drinkwater is yet to feature this season as he continues recovering from a calf strain. He is likely to be available for selection after the international break when David Luiz will be in contention again, as well as he serves the final of his three-match ban that he accrued after being sent off against Arsenal two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Pedro is expected to start on Saturday after shaking off a minor knock to make the bench against Atletico Madrid. Also expected to feature from the beginning is Eden Hazard, who has now completely recovered from his ankle injury and regained full match fitness.

The major selection dilemma on Conte’s hands is likely to be in defence, where he will have to make a choice between Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger, who took the Chelsea captain’s place at Stoke City last week. Andreas Christensen is likely to continue in the sweeper role in the back-three.

Possible Starting XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Bakayoko, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard

Chelsea

Manchester City

Like his counterpart in the Chelsea dugout, Pep Guardiola does not have many injury concerns to deal with either ahead of the visit to Stamford Bridge. But, he has been greeted by two pieces of bad news that has extended his injury list to three players.

Captain Vincent Kompany is unlikely to feature as he recovers from a calf injury he picked up while on Belgium duty in the last international break. The centre-back has been joined on the treatment table this week by Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero.

Mendy sustained a knee injury in the match against Crystal Palace last weekend and, upon medical assessment in Barcelona, is sidelined for at least the remainder of the year as he prepares to undergo surgery to repair the ruptured ACL.

Fabian Delph has deputised in the Frenchman’s stead admirably in the last two matches and could start again on Saturday, although Danilo is vying for a place in the side as well. Meanwhile, Aguero has picked up a rib injury after being involved in an accident in Amsterdam on Thursday.

Early reports suggest that the Argentinean striker will be on the sidelines for two months, and will definitely not play a part on Saturday. In his absence, Gabriel Jesus is expected to feature as the lone striker.

Possible Starting XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Jesus, Sterling

City

Key Stats

  • Chelsea have only lost one of their last seven Premier League matches against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge (W4 D2).
  • Pep Guardiola has lost three consecutive matches against an opponent just once before in his entire managerial career – Barcelona lost three consecutive games against Real Madrid between April 2012 and April 2014.
  • Only Newcastle United (22 in 1994-95) and Manchester United (22 in 2011-12) scored more goals than Manchester City at this stage of a Premier League season than Manchester City’s 21. Neither side went on to win the title.
  • Alvaro Morata has scored six goals in his first six Premier League appearances. The highest goalscorers in their first seven appearances in the English top-flight is Mick Quinn (10) followed by Diego Costa (9).
  • Pep Guardiola is yet to win a game against Chelsea inside ninety minutes. In seven previous attempts, he has lost thrice and drawn four times, more than any other side he has faced, although his Bayern Munich beat the Blues on penalties in the 2013 UEFA Super Cup.

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Both Teams to Score – YES @1.61

2. Over 10.5 Match Corners @1.83

Underdog Bets

1. Kyle Walker to get booked @3.25

Player To Watch

Gabriel Jesus

Need goals? Call me. (Photo courtesy - Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Need goals? Call me. (Photo courtesy – Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

It goes without saying that Gabriel Jesus has been an inspired signing by Pep Guardiola, having taken no time to adapt to life in England. The Brazilian has started the current Premier League campaign in style as well, scoring four goals in five games.

His partnership with Sergio Aguero, in particular, has been a sight to behold for Manchester City fans. But, with the Argentine sidelined for the foreseeable future, the burden of finding the goals now rests on the young shoulders of Jesus.

Chelsea will be the biggest test in his short Manchester City career thus far, and a prolific outing for the 20-year-old against the Premier League champions could go a long way in establishing his name as one of the best players in the Premier League and the world.

Prediction

Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City

Chelsea and Manchester City go up against each other at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, and with two of the most in-form sides in the Premier League facing off, we have a spicy encounter on our hands.

Recent meetings between the two sides have been goal fests, complete with end to end football, and Saturday should not be any different. Guardiola has never managed to win against the Blues in his career so far, and with Eden Hazard fit and firing, his winless run is likely to extend to eight games.

City’s unrelenting attack faces its toughest test against Conte’s backline as well, and their free scoring run might just come to an end this week. The Hard Tackle predicts a closely contested stalemate between the two sides.

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