This weekend will host arguably the first fixture which pits two of the strongest contenders for the Premier League title this season, against each other – Champions Chelsea versus Challengers Manchester City at Stamford Bridge, where the crown currently resides.
With all the focus on Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and the supposed two-way battle in Manchester, the start that Chelsea have made to their domestic and European campaign, has gone under the radar. The Blues, after a disappointing opening day defeat at home, have bounced back spectacularly with manager Antonio Conte quietly and successfully getting his act together to pose a strong defence for the league title.
In the last few years, both Chelsea and Man City have enjoyed great success in the Premier League – often involving in title races right to the very end and this season should be no different. The home side who are without a defeat in the last 5 games in the Premier League, will go into this game in fine fettle following a fantastic win against Atletico Madrid in midweek.
For Manchester City, this is an opportunity to truly lay down a marker. Pep Guardiola’s side remain unbeaten in the league and are scoring goals for fun – topping the table for goals scored, which should not come as a surprise for a team that can bring the likes of Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva from the bench. The team is littered with attacking prowess, playing under a manager who loves nothing more than controlling the football match with the ball, dictating play from start to finish and scoring loads of goals. And City are doing all of that, at the moment.
The visitors have had mixed results at Stamford Bridge in recent years – having won only once in five games in all competitions, a comprehensive 3-0 win towards the back end of 2015/16 but also lost 5-1 in the FA Cup two months prior. Chelsea did the double last season over Man City on their way to a second league title in three years but it will be interesting to see if a similar result is on the cards, come Saturday.
Chelsea will miss David Luiz through suspension while midfielder Danny Drinkwater is still sidelined. Pedro is expected to be reinstated after the Spanish forward missed the Blues’ win over Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.
City suffered a huge blow in the form of a long-term injury to new signing Benjamin Mendy but in the last few hours, the news of Sergio Aguero fracturing his ribs has reached Manchester, which leaves Pep Guardiola with another massive problem to overcome in terms of selecting the starting eleven ahead of the big trip down South.
Captain Kompany has yet to feature since the end of August and Ilkay Gundogan will need to be assessed before the selection.
- Only Newcastle United (22 in 1994/95) and Manchester United (22 in 2011/12) have scored more goals at this stage of a PL season than Man City’s 21, but neither went on to win the title.
- Alvaro Morata has scored six goals in his first six PL appearances. The highest goalscorer in their first seven appearances as a Premier League player is Mick Quinn (10) followed by Diego Costa (nine).
- Chelsea have lost only one of their last seven Premier League matches against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge (W4 D2), and are the only team do a PL double over Pep Guardiola’s Man City.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Eden Hazard has yet to score or assist this season so far, with the Belgian taking his time to hit his stride, partly overshadowed by Alvaro Morata who has made a sensational start to life in the London and the Premier League. Hazard is one of the very best players in the Premier League who could create something out of virtually nothing which makes him dangerous, all the more so when City lose the ball high up the pitch.
Big players turn up in the biggest of games and for Eden Hazard, this game is made for him to spark a revival.
Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City
With 4 goals in 5 starts, Brazilian Gabriel Jesus is proving his worth in front of goal – showing how lethal he could be in front of goal. City have goals all over their squad – but none more important than Jesus, who alongside is part of a partnership that is as devastatingly clinical as any in the country.
His usually sharp movement will be tested against a seasoned back three of Chelsea and hence much of the game’s outcome tend to rely on how well he makes himself available to Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva – so that they could find him in areas where he can really hurt Chelsea from.
It has all the makings of an end-to-end goal-fest with a dribble of touchline theatre – which means it is probably going to disappoint big time.
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City
Data from Whoscored, unless otherwise stated.