The Premier League returns with a mouth-watering clash to look forward to on Saturday as Premier League champions Manchester City welcome in-form Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium.
Four of the last five Premier League titles have been won by these two clubs, although Chelsea are not quite the English powerhouse they once were.
In this fixture last season, Pep Guardiola’s side handed the Londoners their biggest-ever Premier League defeat with a 6-0 result, which saw Sergio Aguero score a hat-trick.
This season, however, the Blues are showing signs of becoming a force to be reckoned with, and Guardiola will need to be wary of Frank Lampard’s vibrant young side who have won their last six league games.
City head into the encounter as heavy favourites, but write this Chelsea side off at your peril.
Man City 4/10
Manchester City will look to bounce back to winning ways after losing 3-1 away to Liverpool last time out as they attempt to defend their Premier League title. Guardiola will know that the first game after international breaks can be a potential banana skin, and a meeting with Chelsea – who have really hit their stride with six consecutive league victories – would be far from an easy proposition.
The Spanish boss would love a repeat of last season when he watched his side thrash Maurizio Sarri’s team 6-0 at the Etihad – with four goals in the opening 25 minutes – but he’ll know it would be nearly impossible for it to be that easy against the division’s form side.
Guardiola’s reigning champs find themselves in the unusual position of fourth, nine points behind rivals Liverpool. They’re actually closer to promoted Sheffield United than to the table toppers at Anfield.
The Citizens have already lost three times this season – they were unbeaten at this stage last term. Failure to beat Chelsea – coupled with a Liverpool victory at Crystal Palace – and they can kiss their title hopes goodbye.
This is a must-win game for City, and Guardiola should be able to welcome back his first-choice goalkeeper Ederson, which will give the defence that’s still missing Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko a major lift, while captain and talisman David Silva is also set to return.
City haven’t been at their majestic best this season. We’ve seen them lose 3-2 away to promoted Norwich in September and they were beaten 2-0 at home to Wolves last month, failing to score a goal at the Etihad Stadium for the first time in 23 Premier League matches. Even in their last home game where they beat Southampton 2-1, they never looked convincing and were behind up until the 69th minute, with Kyle Walker netting the winner in the 86th minute.
Guardiola’s side need to pull up their socks if they want to stop Liverpool from running away with the title, and if they’re at their best against Chelsea on Saturday, they will almost certainly win. City are stacked with world-class players – Ederson, Aguero, David Silva, Raheem Sterling and top assist provider Kevin De Bruyne to name a few.
One world-class player Guardiola won’t be able to call upon is Bernardo Silva. The Portuguese midfielder will serve a one-match ban and will pay a £50,000 fine in relation to a tweet he sent to team-mate Benjamin Mendy. Silva has scored five goals and registered two assists in 11 Premier League appearances so far this season.
Facing Manchester City on their home turf is daunting for any team in world football, however, Frank Lampard’s vibrant young Chelsea side are flying high and will be full of confidence heading to the Etihad Stadium, with vice-captain Jorginho free to return after serving a suspension against Crystal Palace.
Chelsea, who are a point and a place above City in the table, have been in fine form under Lampard, having won their last six league games. The Blues have also won five of their six matches away from home (same as Liverpool) and have scored 18 goals on their travels – no team has scored more on the road.
The Blues have been excellent away from home this season. They’ve taken maximum points at Norwich and Wolves – who recorded wins over City – and won at Southampton, Burnley and Watford.
Lampard’s side have also won both of their away matches in the UEFA Champions League. The Londoners recorded a 2-1 victory over Lille – who remain the only side yet to lose at home in Ligue 1 – and even more impressive, they beat Ajax 1-0 in Amsterdam – European heavyweights Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Juventus failed to do so last season.
Chelsea are an entertaining team to watch under Lampard and perhaps most impressively, he is achieving good results with a young team. There’s no doubt they have immense potential and I think they can be genuine Premier League title contenders within the next two years.
The Blues will be looking to put a further dent in City’s title hopes and continue their own fine form in the process. Lampard spent a season with City towards the end of his stellar career, but now he’ll be hell bent on beating them at the Etihad. With their momentum at present, Chelsea have every chance.
Lampard’s side can pose City problems at the back with Tammy Abraham, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount in their attacking ranks, but Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma will be tested to the absolute limit.
Man City: 4-3-3
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Fernandinho, Angelino; Rodri, David Silva, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Sterling, Aguero.
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Emerson; Jorginho, Kante, Mount; Willian, Pulisic, Abraham.
Prediction: Matchbet & Both Teams To Score: Draw & Yes (7/2)
Both teams play a fluid and attacking style of football and have coaches that encourage them to be expressive, press high, and attack in numbers. Therefore, it could well prove to be a free-scoring afternoon if both attacks are on song. Lampard will be desperate to show that his team is ready to go toe-to-toe with the champions. If Wolves and Spurs were able to leave the Etihad with points this season, is it really impossible for this Chelsea side to get something? City are undoubtedly the better team, but they haven’t been at their best. The Draw and Both Teams to Score at 7/2 is worth a punt.
You might like to check out our Soccer / Football App