After a shock setback at the weekend, Chelsea need to get their Premier League title bid back on the rails when they host Man City at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday (8pm, live on BT Sport 1).
It may have been a rare defeat for Antonio Conte last time out, but losing 2-1 against a resurgent Crystal Palace side just might prove costly. The Blues took the lead early on, Cesc Fabregas sweeping the ball home after being picked out by Eden Hazard in the fourth minute. Palace hit back through Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke almost immediately and managed to hold onto their advantage for the remaining 79 minutes. This was Chelsea’s first reverse in front of their supporters since a 2-1 loss to Liverpool in September.
Given that Tottenham Hotspur were 2-0 winners over Burnley on the same afternoon, Chelsea’s lead at the top now stands at seven points. It is still a sizeable gap and Conte’s men remain overwhelming favourites in the Premier League betting to be crowned champions, but Saturday’s shock has given the chasing pack a glimmer of hope as the finish line starts to come into sight. It will be vital that Conte preaches calm to his players ahead of this crucial game, as the club’s fans are bound to grow nervous if they go behind against Man City.
Pep Guardiola’s charges had the chance to move to within nine points of the summit when they took to the field on Sunday afternoon, but in the end the visitors to the Emirates Stadium could only manage a 2-2 draw. Man City had some excellent moments against Arsenal but failed to press home their advantage after going 1-0 and 2-1 up, with their performance once again characterised by sloppy defensive mistakes and a lack of midfield control.
Guardiola possesses an incredible track record and has already overseen some fine Man City showings in his debut campaign, but there is still a long way to go before this team can be compared to the ones he created at Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Having said that, a place in next season’s Champions League is well within City’s grasp, and a triumph over Chelsea would see them move eight points shy of first place.
Victor Moses (calf) was a key absence for Conte’s side at the weekend and will probably miss out again here, but Chelsea have no other injury concerns. Pedro could continue at right wing-back, although another option would be shifting Cesar Azpilicueta into that role and deploying either John Terry or Kurt Zouma alongside Gary Cahill and David Luiz at centre-half. Cesc Fabregas could also make way for Willian in order to provide the hosts with more pace in the final third of the pitch.
Manchester City remain without Ilkay Gundogan (knee) and Gabriel Jesus (foot), but Bacary Sagna could return to the fold following a groin problem. Guardiola bemoaned his team’s lack of control in the first half of their stalemate against Arsenal and may therefore include Yaya Toure from the start. Much will depend on whether Raheem Sterling is fit as the England international has been struggling with a back issue in the last few weeks.
It will be interesting to see how Chelsea react after coming unstuck against Palace, which was their first defeat by a non-top six side this season. Conte’s men are still the best team in the division but City have enough quality to take advantage of any anxiety, which is why it could be worth putting some money on an away win with the bookies. That is our preview’s selection but the Blues will probably score given that City have frequently been undermined by defensive slackness this year. As for the second of the betting tips, Leroy Sane can be a goalscorer at any time.