Can Chelsea Pass the City Test?
It is another meeting of the ‘top six’ this weekend, as Chelsea host Manchester City. On Monday night, Mauricio Pochettino oversaw a 4-1 victory away to early pace setters Tottenham Hotspur. There was a lot of VAR controversy, but the Blues battled to get the three points. It will be hoped that it marks a turning point in their season. After a relatively kind fixture list to start the season, they are only in mid table and need to go on a run of good results. City are a good test for them and it will show just how good this Chelsea team is.
After a huge summer of spending, more was expected from Chelsea this season. Todd Boehly and the owners will be hoping that the club can return to the Champions League, as this will increase the revenues of the club. It looks unlikely from their current position, but their recent matches against Arsenal and Tottenham show that they are starting to compete with the very best in the league. There is no better team than Manchester City, who are the current holders of the Premier League and Champions League. If the Blues can compete this weekend, it will do a lot for their confidence.
Manchester City have moved to the top of the table, but it hasn’t been all plain sailing for them this season. They have been knocked out of the Carabao Cup, while also losing twice in the Premier League. Although they are the best team, they aren’t as unbeatable as they appeared towards the end of last season. This will be another good test for them, as they face an improving Chelsea team. A win at Stamford Bridge will reassert their position as favourites for the league title.
Chelsea have lost eight times at Stamford Bridge in 2023. They have never lost nine home matches in a calendar year since 1986.
Last weekend was the 12th time that Manchester City have scored six or more since Pep Guardiola took the manager’s job.
There is always a point to prove in this fixture for Raheem Sterling. He was once one of the star players for Manchester City, but he left last summer and he will be determined to show his class against his former club. There is even greater motivation for him after missing out on the England squad once again. Sterling will be desperate to get back into the national squad before Euro 2024 and a good performance against the champions will do him the world of good. This season, he has looked threatening in attack without getting the goal returns that he perhaps deserves. He has three goals and one assist to date.
After his goals against Manchester United last month, Erling Haaland will be keen to once again play a starring role against a rival club. There were a few suggesting that he wasn’t as good away from home against the better teams. He quietened those critics at Old Trafford and will want to do similar on Sunday. The calendar year of 2023 has been excellent for Haaland as he has established himself as one of the best players in the world. It feels like a matter of time before he wins the Ballon D’Or after he came so close this year. The striker already has 11 goals in the Premier League this season, averaging one every game. This is a remarkable return, but it feels like an average strike rate for Haaland. There is likely to be improvement over the next few months.
Armando Broja will be back involved for Chelsea after his knee injury. Christopher Nkunku and Romeo Lavia are getting closer to full fitness, but Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana and Carney Chukwuemeka are still out.
John Stones limped off in the Champions League and he will be missing this weekend. Manuel Akanji is back after his suspension.
This is going to be another game that tells us a lot about where Chelsea are in their development under Pochettino. There won’t be any huge expectations about getting a result, but some of their best performances have come in the more difficult matches. The Blues played well against Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham. They didn’t lose any of those games. That said, this is another step above and Manchester City should have the quality to earn the points. It will be more difficult than it was last season though.
Chelsea 1-2 Manchester City