It’s very early in the new season, but this weekend sees the last two winners of the Premier League come head-to-head at the Etihad Stadium. A loss for either at this stage wouldn’t be a disaster as we are still in August. However, beating a title rival this early could lead to one of these sides gaining momentum, which was key in the first few months of last season for Chelsea. Jose Mourinho is a master in the big games and could once again make Chelsea very difficult to beat against their rivals.
Manchester City opened their season with an impressive 3-0 victory over West Brom, in which they looked like the side that won the title in the 2013/14 campaign. Manuel Pellegrini has recently signed a new deal, but his long term future is far from secure after his side disappointed many last year. The addition of Raheem Sterling this summer is going to be a huge boost to the manager’s attacking options, but City are still vulnerable defensively. They could still make moves in the transfer market before the deadline as the squad has weaknesses. An advantage for City this season is that the club looks settled and the majority of the players have played together for a number of years.
Meanwhile, Chelsea have begun the season under a cloud, due to an in house row between Mourinho and his medical staff. This has happened as the medical staff opted to treat Eden Hazard against Chelsea against Mourinho’s orders. Eva Carneiro and Jon Fearn have been taken off match day duties as a result. This row has taken the spotlight off Chelsea’s poor performance on the opening day, but it could have consequences in the long run with Moutinho being accused of sexism in some sections of the media. His side drew to Swansea 2-2 on the opening day, with Thibaut Courtois getting sent off. The champions were lucky as Swansea created the better chances and could have won on another day.
Last season, both matches between the two clubs finished 1-1. At the Etihad Stadium, Andre Schurrle opened the scoring for Chelsea before Frank Lampard equalised for the home side late on. It was one of the stories of the season as Lampard came back to haunt the club where he is regarded a legend. Pablo Zabaleta was sent off during this match, making City’s point even more valuable. In the return fixture, Loic Remy scored for Chelsea, before David Silva nabbed the visitors a point.
Manchester City completed 692 passes during their opening fixture, which was 211 more than any other side. This shows how good they will be on the ball this season.
An incredible 24% of Chelsea’s red cards in the Premier League era have come under Jose Mourinho, which highlights the side’s aggressive nature under the Portuguese manager.
Yaya Toure started the season with a great performance to drive Manchester City to victory against West Brom on Monday. He struggled to dominate the league last season and his club suffered without his influence. This year, the league is open with three or four sides capable of going all the way. Manchester City are one of them, but they will need Toure to play like he did on Monday in the majority of matches. The Ivorian has the ability to be one of the best players in the league if he adds consistency to his play. His pace and power makes him a handful for any defence. Toure is most effective when he is given license to attack and runs with the ball through the middle of the pitch. He can beat defenders with ease using his strength and he will pose Chelsea problems on Sunday.
Chelsea will need to be defensively solid this weekend, and Nemanja Matic is central to that. During this fixture in the 2013/14 season, Chelsea managed to win the match due to the efforts of the Serbian midfielder. The Blues have a lot of talented players, but Matic is one of the few that they couldn’t cope without for a long period. Last season, Chelsea started strongly and didn’t lose their first match until December, which was also their first match without Matic in the starting eleven, underlining his importance in midfield. He is excellent at breaking down the play and bringing the Chelsea attackers into the game. The former Benfica player is also good in the air and can pose a problem in the final third when he moves forward. He has far more to his game than his defensive talents. On Sunday, he will be key as he will have to prevent Yaya Toure from causing too many problems for the Chelsea defence.
Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy are both carrying knocks, but they should be fit to be involved against Chelsea. Fabian Delph remains a week away from making his Premier League debut for Manchester City after picking up an injury during pre season. Fernando is also set to miss this weekend’s match against the champions. Sergio Aguero could be fit to start after beginning the season on the bench.
Thibaut Courtois will miss out through suspension, which will give Asmir Begovic the opportunity to make his full debut after impressing against Swansea. Oscar has a slight knock, but he should recover in time to face Manchester City. Apart from the Brazilian, Chelsea have a fully fit squad to choose from on Sunday.
It will be a nervous game between the two, as it’s coming early in the season and neither will want to lose against a rival at this stage. Jose Mourinho is a master at setting his side up against the big sides, but the controversy this week surrounding the medical staff may have had a detrimental effect on his side’s preparations. It was a clever tactic to deflect away from Chelsea’s poor performance against Swansea, but it has blown up and may have done more harm than good in the long run. The midfield battle will be crucial, with Matic against Toure being a battle of two of the best in the league. Both sides have excellent attacking line-ups, but the game will be decided by who creates the most chances. I think City will beat Chelsea this weekend and pile more misery on the Blues.
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea