While the general mood-music around the Etihad Stadium has been that of a team under pressure, their recent results don’t really present a cause for concern.
Most concerning was a recent defeat to Newcastle United where their tendency to switch off against lesser sides was duly punished. All being told, City have won nine from their last ten games in all competitions, scoring 43 goals and conceding just four.
Aside from the goal difference skewing games against Rotherham and Burton Albion, they’ve managed to see off Liverpool and Arsenal in that run to boot.
For Chelsea, their form has been a point of much greater concern.
Over the course of their last ten games Maurizzio Sarri’s side have lost three, draw one, and won the remaining six, albeit once against Spurs on penalties in the Carabao Cup.
However it’s been the manner of the defeats and a sterile draw that brought pressure upon Stamford Bridge. Their nadir was reached in a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
Vitally, that game was followed by the even more resounding thrashing, this time dished out by Chelsea, of Huddersfield.
That 5-0 win brought back in to focus just how good Chelsea looked earlier this season. New loan signing Gonzalo Higuain linked up brilliantly with Eden Hazard on that occasion. A much sterner test awaits them at the Etihad stadium this weekend.
Former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin said on Irish radio this week that he felt his side are the perfect team for Manchester City to play.
His expectation is that due to Sarri’s insistence on his side controlling each and every game, regardless of the opposition, Chelsea will ultimately allow City the space in which to kill the Blues.
I can certainly see this happening.
Chelsea will likely play a higher line than most against City, and they will be required to commit bodies forward in pursuit of three points and a win.
If the consequences of this are anything like the space afforded to the defending champions when Arsenal played at the Etihad last week then we can expect goals.
Then there’s the question of which Chelsea will show up. The one that was lacerated on several occasions by Bournemouth, or the one from a week later that featured the lethal Hazard and Higuain.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 7, 2019
A worry for Cheslea’s fans and backers is that they’ve failed to win on the road against the ‘top six’ in their last six attempts in the league – with two draws and four defeats.
Looking at their respective head to heads in recent seasons however, it’s fairly close.
Antonio Conté won the contest on an aggregate of 5-2 in his title winning campaign. The next season City collected six points with two 1-0 wins. This season Eden Hazard set up both goals in a 2-0 win in Decemeber that ended Man City’s unbeaten start.
City are likely to be without Vincent Kompany, Eliaquim Mangala and Claudio Bravo. However Benjamin Mendy has stepped up his recovery from a long lay-off and could feature from the bench.
Chelsea are in decent shape heading into this game. Antonio Rudiger missed out on his side’s win over Huddersfield mid-week owing to a knee complaint but is expected to return this weekend.
Man City won’t lack for motivation. At this point in the season, every dropped point will feel like a nail in their title challenge coffin.
Similarly, Chelsea will feel the heat of Manchester United and Arsenal on their backs in the race for the top four. Defeats are damaging bordering on terminal.
Once Chelsea stick to their manager’s ideals then this game should be open and City should win.
Man City to win and both teams to score at 19/10