As the Premier League races towards its make or break stage of the season (Arsenal fans know it as February) the showdown between Manchester City and Chelsea is set to be the game of the season – unless Mourinho takes a fancying to that ‘19th century’ football he’s supposedly against.
Since they’ve managed to deal with indifferent away form, Manchester City have been imperious, overcoming every team put in front of them and clocking 68 league goals already this season – more than their total last season (66). The injury to Aguero will be an annoyance for Pellegrini, with the Argentine scoring in his last 8 Premier League games and the pressure will be on Negredo and Dzeko to carry on scoring, which is a nice problem to have compared to his managerial counterpart at Chelsea.
It has been well-known about Chelsea’s striker problems with neither Torres, Eto’o, and Demba Ba being able to put a run of consistent performances together and claim the role as top striker; the mid-week game against West Ham saw this problem cost points, as Chelsea had 38 shots without finding the back of the net. Despite this, Chelsea are unbeaten in 9 matches since their defeat to Sunderland in the League Cup.
In his first season in English football the Spanish international has surpassed the opinion that many had of his signing when he arrived. His strength and hardworking nature have helped him to quickly adapt to the Premier League, but it’s his skill on the ball and finishing that have caught the eye.
Scoring 23 goals in 33 games in all competitions – including 9 in the league – Negredo only needs a second in the box to be able to put the ball into the back of the net or create a chance for a teammate (21).
The match-up between a tight and organised Chelsea defence will need Negredo to time his runs intelligently and open up space for his teammates, whilst challenging the aerial dominance John Terry often has.
After a slow start to the season, Eden Hazard has flourished yet again this season and it is unsurprising given his fast, direct play slots perfectly into the way Mourinho likes his football side to play; noticeably in the work rate Hazard has shown this season and the 302 ground duels made – the highest amount in the Premier League. Without a free-scoring striker in the team, Hazard holds the title of Chelsea’s top league goal scorer with 9 goals.
Hazard is also the highest chance creator for Chelsea (60) and has 5 assists to his name thus far in the league. The Belgian international could take advantage of Manchester City’s sometimes narrow shape and get behind the defence to pick out a waiting striker and onrushing midfielder.
Alvaro Negredo has scored 16 goals in his last 13 competitive appearances at the Etihad.
Chelsea had 39 shots against West Ham in midweek (incl. blocked shots); the most by any team who failed to score in the PL since 2003/04.
Chelsea have kept 3 clean sheets in a row away from home in the Premier League.
James Milner could return for Manchester City, but the big blow is the hamstring injury suffered by Aguero against Tottenham mid-week which sees him out for a month. Javi Garcia (muscle) and Samir Nasri (knee) are the other players missing out for City.
Chelsea have no new injury concerns for the big match, but Torres (knee) and long-term absentee Van Ginkel (knee) are set to miss out.
Manchester City’s home record this season has only been ruined by the European Champions Bayern Munich this season, which shows the feat facing Chelsea on Monday night. Their previous away trips to title rivals has seen Chelsea turn up with a conservative approach and returned without being beat; the same approach will likely be on show again at the Eithad, making this game an interesting tactical match-up between the two sides. City’s defence has looked penetrable at times throughout the season, but Mourinho’s ‘must not lose’ attitude makes it hard to predict a victor out of the two – the timing of the first goal will determine the quality of match on show for neutral fans expecting a thriller.
Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea
Winner Sports Odds
Manchester City are favourites to win this game with Winner Sports and are best priced 17/20, while you can back Chelsea at 7/2 or the draw at 49/20.
Over 2.5 goals in the game is priced up at 7/10, while you can back both teams to score at 8/13.
The predicted scoreline of 2-2 is 12/1.
Alvaro Negredo is 15/4 to open the scoring, while you can find Eden Hazard at 9/1 to be the first goalscorer.
Winner Sports are also offering a free £25 matched bet if you sign up here.
(Interesting Stats via Four Four Two)