Manchester City can pile further misery on Chelsea as they host the defending Premier League champions at Etihad on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola is a focused man and Manchester City seems to have their eyes locked on trophies this season. After bagging the EFL Cup with a thumping win over Arsenal, the Citizens repeated the scoreline in the Premier League against the same opponent.
With City miles ahead of everyone else – 15 points to be exact – a win over Chelsea would see them take one more step forward towards the Premier League title. Chelsea, on the other hand, have had a rough defence of their title.
While it has not been as bad as their last title defence, the transfer dealings combined their recent on-pitch form has somewhat disappointed the fans and Antonio Conte both. The Blues now find themselves in danger of missing out on the top four.
The fact that Tottenham and Liverpool both won their respective games would pile even more pressure on Chelsea, who will know that anything but a win over Manchester City will see them fall further behind in the top four race.
Chelsea came out with all three points on their last Premier League trip to Etihad and would hope for a similar outcome against Manchester City on Sunday. Ahead of their latest encounter, let us take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Fabian Delph continues serving his suspension, which should see one of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Danilo being chosen to take the field on the left side of the defence. Benjamin Mendy is the only long-term absentee and perhaps, the only confirmed injury on the treatment table for City at the moment.
Raheem Sterling returned to training and while he was not risked against Arsenal, he could feature on Sunday. Kyle Walker limped off in the midweek, but is likely to be available for selection for the match against Chelsea. Fernandinho is doutbful and should ideally be rested.
John Stones and Aymeric Laporte should both return to assume their position in central defence, despite Guardiola preferring the pairing of Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany against Arsenal.
One of the key highlights of City’s triumph over Arsenal was their willingness to sacrifice possession and favour quality over quantity as far as ball retention is concerned. However, against Chelsea, we should see Guardiola go back to his possession-dominating tactics.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Danilo; De Bruyne, Gundogan, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Antonio Conte continues to have David Luiz, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley be on the sidelines. The trio are doubtful again for the match against Manchester City and are unlikely to feature on Sunday. Antonio Rudiger could be favoured over Gary Cahill in the back-three, with the former growing more and more accustomed to life in England and Premier League football.
One of the main headaches for Conte would be his decision as regards the players upfront. While Alvaro Morata is available, he was one of the many culprits in their 2-1 loss to Manchester United. On the other hand, Eden Hazard’s deployment as a False Nine served Chelsea well against Barcelona, who employ a similar footballing philosophy as Manchester City.
Conte is unlikely to spring up a surprise and select Olivier Giroud as the frontman, which means Pedro and Willian should start in attack with Eden Hazard occupying the central role, with Morata and Giroud both on the bench.
Hazard’s deployment as the False Nine has seen to bring more fluid movement and smoother football from Chelsea, something which Conte would demand from his players in order to have a chance against an in-form Manchester City lineup.
Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Hazard, Pedro
1. Chelsea Asian Handicap +1.0 @ 1.850
2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.70
1. Chelsea to win @ 6.00
1. Red among the Blues – The fixture has recently become notorious for cards, especially the games at Etihad, with Chelsea’s last three visits seeing 3 red cards being handed out – all 3 of them to City players.
2. The Blue Fortress – Manchester City are unbeaten at Etihad this season so far in the Premier League, winning 13 of the 14 home games played so far, with a positive goal difference of 40.
3. Managerial wars – Antonio Conte became the first ever manager to complete a league double over Pep Guardiola last season. And a Manchester City win on Sunday would see Guardiola become only the second manager, after Delio Rossi, to inflict the same upon his adversary.
4. Sergio Aguero has 11 goals and 3 assists in his last 10 Premier League games going into the game on Sunday.
5. Chelsea have not lost a single competitive game to Manchester City in which Eden Hazard has either scored or assisted.
Player to Watch
If chosen in the starting lineup, the Sunday match would present Laporte’s biggest test of his Manchester City career so far, especially if Chelsea go in with Eden Hazard in a False Nine role. The Belgian will attempt to drag the defence out and create space for others to exploit, something the Spaniard will have to be wary of while defending against the classy dribbler.
Apart from Hazard, Laporte could also have a battle at hand with the in-form Willian, who has shown his pedigree and hunger for goals in the recent big matches for Chelsea. All in all, this could be the match that truly shows to the world just how correct Guardiola was to bring Laporte in for the hefty price tag.
Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea
As shocking as it may sound, we tip Manchester City to taste their first Premier League defeat at home this season on Sunday. Antonio Conte will be looking for a reaction from his side after the woeful 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. And chances are, he could get it from his players, with the added motivation of becoming the first team to beat the current leaders at their home ground.
The win would also set Chelsea up nicely for the return leg against Barcelona. While Manchester City are not the underdogs at all, we believe the Citizens could be in for a shock on Sunday, provided Conte does field a 3-4-3 False Nine with Eden Hazard through the centre.