Reigning champions Manchester City will look to reclaim top spot on the Premier League table, when they lock horns with Chelsea on Sunday.

In one of the most hotly anticipated games of matchweek 26 in the Premier League, champions Manchester City will play hosts to Champions League qualification hopefuls Chelsea on Sunday evening. A contest that will have major implications in the title race as well as the race for the top four, it promises to be a mouth-watering prospect for the fans.

Manchester City entered the weekend as the league leaders, following their 0-2 midweek victory over Everton. But, challengers Liverpool wrestled back pole position courtesy a resounding 3-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon. Pep Guardiola’s men will now be determined to move back to the top of the table by claiming all three points on Sunday.

Chelsea, on the other hand, started the weekend in fourth place but slipped down to fifth, with Manchester United displacing the Blues following their 0-3 win over Fulham. A draw would be enough for Maurizio Sarri’s side to reclaim their position in the top four and they will be high on confidence, having thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-0 in their last game.

Manchester City and Chelsea have met each other twice already this season and have bagged one win each, with the Citizens winning the FA Community Shield in August, while the Blues ended the champions’ unbeaten run in the league in December.

The two teams are set to clash with each other again in two weeks’ time in the Carabao Cup final and Sunday’s match will provide them with an opportunity to get a good measure of their opponents.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

The reigning champions will go into the game without the services of captain Vincent Kompany and left-back Benjamin Mendy, while backup goalkeeper Claudio Bravo remains sidelined as well. Pep Guardiola is likely to make a few alterations to the team that defeated Everton earlier in the week.

No changes are expected in defence, however, with Aymeric Laporte set to continue as the left-back for City, having scored against the Toffees, while Kyle Walker will start on the opposite side. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi will pair up at the heart of the defence to protect Ederson’s goal.

Fernandinho is a guaranteed starter at the base of the midfield for City and will be tasked with recycling possession in the middle of the park. Kevin De Bruyne should return to the starting XI against his former club in place of Ilkay Gundogan, while David Silva is expected to hold on to the final spot in the centre of the pitch.

Bernardo Silva has been very influential for City in recent matches and should feature from the get-go again on the right flank. Raheem Sterling, who did not start against Everton, should find a place in the lineup on the left wing at the expense of Leroy Sane. Sergio Aguero is expected continue to spearhead the attack for the Premier League champions over Gabriel Jesus.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, David Silva; Bernardo Silva, Aguero, Sterling

Chelsea

Veteran defender Gary Cahill and teenage prodigy Callum Hudson-Odoi are expected to be available, after making swift recoveries from a back problem and illness, respectively. With no other injury or suspension concerns for Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri has a full squad to choose from for their trip to the Etihad.

The Blues have largely been predictable in their team selection this season and no major surprises are expected on Sunday either. Kepa Arrizabalaga is a guaranteed starter between the sticks for the visitors. Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso are likely to continue as the full-backs.

The experience of Antonio Rudiger is expected to be preferred over Andreas Christensen alongside David Luiz at the heart of the defence. Midfield lynchpin Jorginho will continue to operate at the base, with N’Golo Kante and Ross Barkley providing the legs and the forward thrust on either side of the former Napoli superstar.

Willian is likely to get the nod ahead of Pedro on the right flank, while Eden Hazard is a surety on the opposite wing. The Belgian will carry Chelsea’s biggest threat going forward. Gonzalo Higuain will start as the lone striker, after breaking his duck in the Premier League against Huddersfield last time out.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Higuain, Hazard

Betting Odds

Favourable Bets

1. Manchester City to win @ 1.50

2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.75

Underdog Bets

1. Sergio Aguero to score 2 or more @ 3.00

Key Stats

  • Manchester City have lost three of their last five Premier League matches against Chelsea (W2), scoring just four goals and never more than once in this run.
  • Chelsea have won on just two of their last nine visits to the Etihad in the Premier League (D1 L6), winning 1-0 in February 2014 and 3-1 in December 2016.
  • Pep Guardiola has lost more league games against Chelsea than he has versus any other team in his managerial career (3).
  • Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has had a hand in five goals in his last five games against Manchester City in the Premier League (3 goals, 2 assists), with the Belgian assisting both of the Blues’ goals in the reverse fixture this term.
  • City have the division’s best home record this season, with 12 wins from 13 games. They have scored 27 goals in their past five games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions.

Player to Watch

Sergio Aguero

Can Chelsea stop Aguero? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Can Chelsea stop Aguero? (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The man for the big occasion, Sergio Aguero has been the difference maker for Manchester City in the big games for years now. The Argentine forward boasts a remarkable record of 40 goals in 63 games against fellow big six sides since joining the Citizens.

Aguero single-handedly buried Arsenal last weekend, scoring a superb hat-trick and while he failed to find the net against Everton during the week, he will once again be City’s biggest weapon heading into the game against Chelsea.

The 30-year-old has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances versus Chelsea, including a hat-trick in April 2016 and has 22 goals in his 15 most recent Premier League starts at home, scoring in each of the last six. If Chelsea are to get something from Sunday’s game, they will have to find a way to nullify Aguero’s threat.

Prediction

Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea

Manchester City come into the game on the back of a solid run of results. And having made light work of Arsenal and Everton not very long ago, the morale in the squad should be high. But, there will be some amount of pressure on them, following Liverpool’s win against Bournemouth on Saturday.

Chelsea will be in jubilant mood after their thumping win over Huddersfield Town last weekend. But. Sarri’s men have lost all three of their previous games on the road in all competitions. And, while they did manage to dismantle the champions a couple of months ago, their form has since dwindled.

It promises to be a sensational encounter at the Etihad this weekend, one which could be decided by the contest between two Argentine strikers – City’s Aguero, who relishes the big games and Chelsea’s Higuain, who seems to have found his feet in England judging by his performance against Huddersfield.

Manchester City, however, have the edge over Chelsea, owing to their brilliant home form recently and as a result, they should come out victorious to move back to the summit of the Premier League.