This weekend is going to have a major impact on the title race. Chelsea need to beat Manchester City for a fourth time under Thomas Tuchel and close the gap to the current champions. At the time of writing, Pep Guardiola’s men are clear by ten points. It looks an extremely tall task for any team to catch them, but Tuchel won’t let his side admit defeat. They have started to improve performance levels during recent weeks. That trend will need to continue this weekend.
It has been a near perfect festive period for Manchester City. They are at their machine best, as they have won their last seven matches across all competitions. It is becoming an achievement to score against them, let alone beat them. Over the last 12 months, Chelsea have been their bogey team. Earlier in the season, they beat Thomas Tuchel’s side 1-0. Gabriel Jesus scored the winning goal. After ending their poor run against Chelsea, they will be confident they can strengthen their position at the top of the table with a win on Saturday.
Chelsea are having a mixed season under Tuchel. There was hope that the club would challenge for the title, but the early indications are that they are still a year or two away from that. Last season’s Champions League triumph was excellent, but it has raised expectations. Despite the recent drop off in results, Chelsea have made it to the Carabao Cup final and they remain in the other two cup competitions. Their German manager will be hoping they can build momentum with another trophy or two. The squad is still very young and they are on the right path. A victory this weekend will give them a slim hope of getting back into the race to win the league.
Pep Guardiola has lost eight matches during his career to Chelsea. No other club has beaten him on more occasions.
After their excellent start to the season at the back, Chelsea have kept just two clean sheets in 11 matches.
During the first meeting of the season, Joao Cancelo was the best player on the pitch. He is now one of the first names on the team sheet for Pep Guardiola, with the ability to play full back on both flanks. The Portuguese international is emerging as one of the best and most consistent players in the Premier League. This season, he has contributed three goals and seven assists across the Premier League and Champions League. He is averaging 2.2 shots and 1.1 key passes per match in the league. Chelsea do play a system with wing backs and there is often space in wide areas to cause them problems. On the left, Marcos Alonso is especially vulnerable defensively. It would be wise to play Cancelo on this side, as he could cause a lot of problems, like he did at Stamford Bridge.
It has been an excellent season for Mason Mount, as he seems to be taking the next step in his development. He is now one of the most important players in the Chelsea team and carries a dual threat in the final third. At the time of writing, he has contributed seven goals and five assists in the Premier League. The England international will want to regularly reach ten for both on a yearly basis. This is the mark of a world class player and at the age of 23, Mount will want to reach this status. Manchester City are so dominant in matches. It is important that Chelsea manage to get some level of control in the match. They failed to do this at Stamford Bridge, but they had previously been very effective against Manchester City. Mount has the quality to play an influential role on Saturday.
John Stones could be back in contention to feature after his spell on the sidelines. Riyad Mahrez is on international duty, but it is hoped several players will be returning from a Covid-19 absence. Jack Grealish and Phil Foden are both in contention.
Chelsea have a defensive crisis of sorts, as Trevoh Chalobah, Ben Chilwell and Reece James are all unavailable. It will be interesting to see who starts at right wing-back, with Callum Hudson-Odoi, Cesar Azpilicueta and Christian Pulisic all contenders. Kepa Arrizabalaga will start in goal.
Manchester City have won their last 11 Premier League matches. They look unstoppable at the moment and the slight drop off in Chelsea’s form means that it is likely to be a home win. Every neutral will be hoping that the away side can once again beat Pep Guardiola’s men, but recent performances suggest that is unlikely. City are better in both halves of the pitch and that quality should show on Saturday.
Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea