After hanging on to top spot last weekend, Chelsea face a huge test of their title credentials on Saturday. They travel to Manchester City on the back of a seven game winning run, can they extend that with a victory at the Etihad? This could be their toughest fixture of the campaign, so they’ll need to continue their fantastic form if they’re going to hang on to top spot. We’ll know a lot more about Antonio Conte’s Chelsea after they come through this fixture.
Manchester City looked to be runaway leaders early on, but their dip in form allowed a host of teams back into the picture. They’ve returned to winning ways, but they’re not quite back to their best. With a huge game just around the corner, can Pep Guardiola get his team back to their peak performance level with a highly significant win over the league leaders? They’ll certainly not have it as easy as they did in this fixture last season.
Team News: Conte to ring the changes for big clash?
John Terry missed out on the bench last weekend, he’s set to miss at least two weeks. He said after the Tottenham game that he’s happy to be on the bench with the team playing well. John Obi Mikel remains out, while Kurt Zouma is unlikely to make his return here. There was a lack of intensity in the early stages of the Spurs match, could that tempt Conte into rotating? It is hard to see who he’d drop, and they do have a week to recover and prepare for this fixture. With the Christmas schedule just round the corner, the Blues’ will need to start changing their personnel soon.
To no one’s surprise, Vincent Kompany is injured ahead of this game. The Belgian defender has barely seen any action for City in recent months, and he’s expected to be out for another six weeks. Fabian Delph is City’s only other injury concern. With no midweek EFL Cup action for the Citizens, and with their Champions League fixture next week now a dead rubber, City can name their strongest possible side for this game. That is unless Guardiola tries some odd, unexplainable rotation. Like when resting Sergio Aguero against Barcelona.
Man City Form
City are unbeaten in four in all competitions, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. They’ve struggled since October; they’ve dropped from the standards they showed at the start of the campaign. They’ve gone from champions elect to third place, while their recent displays have been poor. They’ve claimed back to back 2-1 wins in the league, but they came against some really poor defences. Burnley’s defending last weekend was awful, and Aguero was only too happy to pounce on their mistakes.
City have drawn their last three home league matches. In fact, no team has won a league match in Manchester since September 24th, every single one has finished level. City’s last home league win was a week before that, and since they’ve dropped some crucial points. They’ve drawn 1-1 with Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, so this is a great time for Chelsea to visit. Could they take advantage of that poor record, and claim some crucial points to go towards their title push?
Manchester City v Chelsea Head to Head
Recent form between these two has seen some interesting results. City blew away both Jose Mourinho’s and Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea last season. In between those two, City fielded a reserve side at the Bridge in the FA Cup, as they wanted to keep their stars fresh for the Champions League. That allowed the Blues to hit them for five, in one of the highlights of a dismal season. Expect this game to be a lot closer in result to the two meetings from the 2014/15 season, when the Blues won the title. Those were hard-fought games, which the away side probably deserved to win on each occasion.
- Chelsea 0-3 Man City, Apr 2014
- Chelsea 5-1 Man City, Feb 2016
- Man City 3-0 Chelsea, Aug 2015
- Chelsea 1-1 Man City, Jan 15
- Man City 1-1 Chelsea, Sep 14
- Diego Costa to score any time – 5/4 at Coral
- 1-1 Draw – 13/2 with BetVictor
We expect a very cagey game when these two sides meet. Given that the Blues have conceded just once in their last seven matches, it might be worth backing against this being a high scoring affair. Under 2.5 goals certainly looking appealing at 43/40 with Bet365, we can’t see this being an end to end clash. Conte will set his side up to be hard to break down, and lethal on the counter. This will be a new chance for the front three to operate in a different way, which could bring a lot out of them. Normally they move and look for space, but now they’ll be trying to break into space in a quick counter-attacking move.
This is a shootout between the Premier League’s joint top scorers. Diego Costa failed to find the net against Tottenham, so Sergio Aguero joined him on 10 goals at the top of the scoring charts. However, the Spanish forward doesn’t tend to be goalless for long, and we can see him getting back into the swing of things with a strike against City. He bullied the City back four here two years ago, and now that he’s back to his best we can see a repeat of that. We’re backing the forward to score any time, at 5/4 with Coral.
Given City’s three consecutive 1-1 draws, we can see a similar result on Saturday. These two played out two 1-1 draws back in 2014/15, when they were evenly matched. After last season’s blip, they seem back on the same level. This will be a really tough test for the hosts, and we’re backing these two to walk away with a point each. A 1-1 draw here is priced attractively at 13/2 with BetVictor.