Manchester City travel to face Chelsea on Thursday night in the eye-catching match of the midweek fixtures. They are competing for different objectives this season, even if they are two of the most decorated clubs in the Premier League. City are trying to retain their title, while Chelsea are trying to remain in the top four. There is a period of transition at Stamford Bridge under new ownership and Graham Potter. It would provide a statement if they could beat the current champions.
Chelsea are set for another transfer window of upheaval with transfers planned. It is Potter’s first as manager, but it is doubtful how much influence he will have on the signings made. Enzo Fernandez looks to be their primary target, as Chelsea try to strengthen their midfield. It has been a position of weakness, due to the ongoing injuries of N’Golo Kante. If they manage to sign Fernandez, it would be a huge coup following the midfielder’s excellent World Cup. For the time being, the focus needs to be on the pitch. The Blues were average against Nottingham Forest and it looks like Potter is still struggling to find the best way to play. There needs to be a stark improvement if they are to beat City.
Pep Guardiola will be disappointed to drop points at the weekend, despite the team dominating the match against Everton. There could be recalls for Joao Cancelo and Phil Foden, as there is a decreasing margin for error in the title race. They already trail by seven points. It is well within City’s capabilities to go on a long winning run and reclaim top spot. It has happened before. If they are to retain their title, that run needs to start sooner rather than later.
Chelsea have only scored three goals in their last five fixtures across all competitions.
Manchester City have the best goal difference in the league. It currently stands at +28.
There has been a lack of consistency in the performances of the attacking players at Stamford Bridge. This hasn’t been helped by the regular rotation of attacking players. Mason Mount will be disappointed by his own performances this season, as he has only contributed three goals and two assists. This is a long way behind his rate in the previous campaign, where he ended up with 11 goals and 10 assists. Potter will hope that the midfielder can step up and get back to his best form in 2023. A good performance against Manchester City would be the perfect start and if Chelsea are to get something from the game. City can be vulnerable at the back, which is why they have dropped points this season. Mount has the quality to cause them problems, even if his form has been patchy.
It is difficult to pick out any other player to be the key man for Manchester City. Although there could be a debate about whether Erling Haaland has made City better or worse, there is no doubting the threat he carries in the final third. Haaland has been a revelation in front of goal during his debut Premier League campaign, scoring at a rate that we haven’t seen before in this country. At the time of writing, Haaland has contributed 21 goals and 3 assists. Earlier in the season, he scored a hat-trick against Manchester United. With a few matches against top six teams coming up, Haaland will want to prove his quality in these matches, by scoring a lot of goals. Chelsea didn’t look confident against Nottingham Forest at the back. If they don’t improve on Thursday, Haaland could score another hat-trick against a top six team. If Chelsea are to win the game, they need to prevent him getting service.
Ben Chilwell, Edouard Mendy and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are all nearing a return to action. Wesley Fofana could be back at the weekend, but this game will come too soon. Reece James and N’Golo Kante won’t be back until February at the earliest.
Aymeric Laporte is a doubt for this fixture with a back injury. Ruben Dias is a longer term absentee. Cancelo and Foden will be pushing for recalls after their recent benchings.
It is difficult to see anything other than a Manchester City win. Chelsea have not been impressive under Potter and questions remain about whether he is the right man to oversee this period of transition. There needs to be a big improvement from the home side if they are to get anything from the game against the champions.
Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City