The eye-catching fixture of the weekend takes place at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City entertain Chelsea. Few would have predicted the visitors to be in a higher league position at the beginning of the season, due to the transfer ban and inexperience of Frank Lampard. However, the Blues have been excellent with the new generation making an instant impact in the Premier League. Meanwhile, Pep Guardiola has had problems dealing with departures and key injuries, which has left his defence lacking the reliability they have shown in previous seasons.
Although the Premier League title race isn’t over, the last gameweek saw Manchester City lose to Liverpool and the current holders are nine points behind the league leaders. In previous seasons, Guardiola’s side have been incredible and a long winning run certainly isn’t beyond them. They had a similar poor run of results last season and bounced back in style to retain their title. However, there are clear issues with the squad, with the defence a huge problem. They may live to regret the decision not to sign a centre back during the summer following Vincent Kompany’s departure. That said, the fixture this weekend could suit them as it will be an open game. City will back their attack to outscore the Chelsea frontline.
It has been a near perfect start for Chelsea, as they have secured their position in the top four and shown flashes of genuine quality. The underlying expected goals numbers rank them as the third best team in the Premier League. There were some that believed that a top six finish would represent a successful season for Lampard, but those that stated that underestimated both the squad and the new head coach. They have played excellent football, with their away form being particularly eye-catching. That will give them belief that they can go to the Etihad Stadium and secure a huge result on Saturday.
- Chelsea have won seven successive away matches across all competitions. This is the joint-longest run in their entire history.
- Manchester City have conceded three goals in a game on two instances this season. They only conceded that many in a single game once in the previous campaign. This underlines the frailties of the back four.
This will always be a special fixture for Kevin De Bruyne, as his talents weren’t appreciated at Stamford Bridge. Ironically, it is likely that he would be given a fair chance under the current Chelsea management, as talent is appreciated higher than ability. During the first few months of the season, the Belgian international has confirmed his position as one of the best players in the Premier League. The 28-year-old has contributed two goals and nine assists, as he is on track to break the Premier League record for the most assists in a single season. Injuries have hampered the midfielder over the last 12 months, but he now looks ready to establish himself as one of the best in Europe. It is fixtures like these that Manchester City need their talisman to step up. He faced some criticism during the recent loss to Liverpool and it is important that he bounces back with a good showing on Saturday. Chelsea should be more open in their defensive third and that is likely to provide their former player with plenty of space to operate in. This will be a huge test for Emerson Palmieri, if he is the player to start at left-back, as De Bruyne likes to operate in that channel.
The striker is currently performing to a high standard and he will be hoping to maintain those levels over the duration of the season. Chelsea fans can be hopeful that he will be able to manage that, based on the consistency that he showed during loan spells with Bristol City and Aston Villa. Although he played in the Championship, he rarely went through a dry patch in front of goal and that shows his elite mentality. According to Understat, Abraham is third in the Premier League for expected goals (xg) with 7.42. The underlying performance indicators suggest that he will continue to carry a threat and this is unlikely to be a flash in the pan season for the England international. At the time of writing, he has scored ten goals in the Premier League. Only Jamie Vardy has scored more goals than him. He is one of the front runners for the golden boot and he will relish his chances against the Manchester City defence.
Bernardo Silva will be unavailable for the home side after being given a one-match suspension for a recent tweet. Ederson will be hoping to make his return in goal. Leroy Sane and Aymeric Laporte remain on the sidelines.
Chelsea are hopeful that Christian Pulisic will be available, despite pulling out of international duty with injury. Jorginho will be back following a suspension, while Ross Barkley should be available.
This could be a great game to watch for the neutral, as both sides are strong in attack. Neither have impressed at the back and that should lead to an entertaining, open contest. It would be a surprise if Manchester City lost another game, especially at home. However, Chelsea have the quality to cause them problems and they will see it as a great chance to announce themselves as a force. A score draw could be a great bet this weekend.
Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea