The dust has settled on the weekend and Tottenham turned out to be the big winners. Chelsea’s shock defeat to Crystal Palace means the gap between them and the chasing pack was cut to seven points. Another defeat and it could be four.
Manchester City meanwhile, were left to rue their luck as they rattled the woodwork twice at Arsenal. Two valuable points were dropped and left them in an uncomfortable position. If they lose, their top four place could be under threat if both the Gunners and bitter city rivals, Manchester United, win their home games.
If they win, the three points will leave them on the fringes of the title race. Currently eleven points behind Chelsea, they are rank outsiders to be crowned champions but nothing is yet decided.
That neither side can afford to lose makes this a fascinating battle. Defensive weaknesses were exposed in by Palace and Arsenal, ones that both Chelsea and City are capable of exposing in their opponents in this fixture.
Both managers are tactically astute and will tinker with their sides although Pep Guardiola is the more likely of the two to make a fundamental change to his team’s set-up, looking to counter the relentless Chelsea pressure.
Chelsea’s defeat at the weekend was only their second home loss of the season. When Liverpool won at Stamford Bridge in September, Chelsea lost the next Premier League game as well. A weakness to exploit or an unhealthy coincidence to avoid…?
Antonio Conte reported no new injuries after the 1 – 2 defeat to Crystal Palace, except for wounded pride. Chelsea dominated the game but chasing goals, they were vulnerable on the counter-attack and could have lost by more.
Even so, they had enough chances to win the match themselves so overall, Conte won’t be too concerned. The test of champions is how well they react to this defeat. There’s not much evidence of that to go on this season, such has been their admirable consistency.
The vulnerability to pace is something which may cause pause for thought. City are blessed with quick players in abundance and Wilfred Zaha wrought havoc with the Chelsea defence. It’s going to be vital for the Blues that they keep the flanks quiet, allowing their midfield to dominate possession. Diego Costa cut a frustrated figure on Saturday; he may enjoy City’s soft centre a little more.
It will be no surprise if Pep Guardiola tinkers with his team. The centre of Chelsea’s midfield is more formidable than Arsenal’s and using so many quick players may not be practical. Expect a stronger line-up physically than faced the Gunners.
Yaya Toure’s second half appearance gives an indication of where the key change may occur, partnering Fernandinho this time instead of allowing him to shift to right back. City flew out of the blocks on Sunday, with Leroy Sane wreaking havoc on the left.
This match may see the opposite flank as more vulnerable, especially if City get beyond Marcos Alonso. Gary Cahill isn’t blessed with pace and Guardiola’s teams passing and movement was mesmerising at times at the Emirates in first twenty minutes.
But they came away with less than they should have, repeating the pattern of recent weeks. Draws against Stoke, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as the defeat against Monaco, isn’t the form of champions. Their dip in form couldn’t have come at worse time; there couldn’t be a better match in which to get back to winning ways.
FORM (Last six games)
Chelsea - WWWWWL
Manchester City - WDWLDD
- Manchester City have been leading at HT in 3 of their last 4 Premier League games
- There have been more than 2.5 goals in 12 of Chelsea’s 14 Premier League home games this season
- Manchester City have scored 2 or more goals in 9 of their last 11 away Premier League games
- One side has scored 3 or more goals in the last 4 meetings between Chelsea and Manchester City
- Manchester City have hit the woodwork 17 times this season, the most in the Premier League
CURRENT MATCH ODDS (BEST PRICED ODDS)
HEAD TO HEAD
Last six meetings
21.09.2014 Premier League Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea
31.01.2015 Premier League Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City
16.08.2015 Premier League Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea
21.02.2016 FA Cup Chelsea 5-1 Manchester City
16.04.2016 Premier League Chelsea 0-3 Manchester City
03.12.2016 Premier League Manchester City 1-3 Chelsea
Despite their setback, Chelsea go into this game as favourites. City are in horrible form, three consecutive draws in the Premier League, from matches which they were surely expecting to take three points.
Knowing they must win this to keep their title hopes alive brings more pressure upon them. Against Arsenal, after a blistering start, they sat back, allowing the Gunners back into the game. Twice they led, twice Arsenal pegged them back. Chelsea will be equally, if not more, ruthless.
Even so, their own performance left a lot to be desired defensively, leaving both sides more than capable of exploiting the others weakness. Recent history in this fixture suggests an abundance of goals. Recent form suggests the same as well. Expecting City to keep a clean sheet in the big matches this season is a tall order; they haven’t managed it yet in any of their matches against teams in the top six this season.
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