Two of the Premier League’s top three teams meet on Monday night when Chelsea visit Manchester City at the Etihad stadium (20:00 GMT, Monday live on Sky Sports).
City extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 20 matches with a 5-1 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday and lead the Premier League table with 53 points from 17 wins, two draws and four defeats, one point clear of Arsenal in second.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side benefited from a couple of marginal decisions in their favour in the win over Spurs, but were nevertheless impressive throughout. They attacked with verve and incision and dominated midfield with the powerful duo of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure. City were the better side before Spurs were reduced to 10 men and were clinical thereafter.
The five goals took Man City’s total for the season to 68, two more than they managed in the whole of last season. They are on course to set a new Premier League record for goals in a season and with such a variety of attacking options, including Sergio Aguero, who was almost unplayable in the first half on Wednesday, they are unlikely to falter in that quest.
It would be fair to say that City have not always been particularly secure defensively – indeed, they have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 league matches. They still have the fourth best defensive record in the Premier League. With such potent attacking options, the odd defensive lapse is unlikely to prove disastrous to their title hopes.
Aguero hobbled off with a hamstring injury on Wednesday and will be out of action for a month. He will clearly be missed, but Man City have previously proved themselves capable of scoring goals in his absence. Javi Garcia (muscle) and Samir Nasri (knee) will also miss out.
Chelsea were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home to West Ham on Wednesday but are nevertheless undefeated in their last nine matches in all competitions. They sit third in the Premier League table, with 50 points from 15 wins, five draws and three defeats.
After watching his side dominate the shot count 39 to one (nine on target, 16 off target, 14 blocked), Jose Mourinho was quick to complain about West Ham’s defensive approach in his post-match interview. He conveniently forgot that he has often reverted to similar tactics himself whilst in charge of far more expensively assembled squads.
Indeed, the bedrock of Chelsea’s improved form over the festive period and into the New Year has been their defensive solidity, facilitated by the employment of a dedicated holding midfielder to shield in front of the back four. The Blues have conceded just twice in their last nine matches in all competitions and now have the best defensive record in the league.
With Eden Hazard (nine goals, five assists for the season) in sterling form and the likes of Fernando Torres, Oscar (pictured above) and Samuel Eto’o also contributing over the last month or so, Chelsea have generally offered enough of a threat in attack to parlay clean sheets into three points. They do, however, still have problems breaking down overtly defensive teams.
Mourinho will be without Torres (knee) and long-term injury absentee Marco Van Ginkel (knee) for this match, but otherwise looks to have a full squad to pick from. New signing Mohamed Salah is likely to make the bench.
Man City vs Chelsea Betting Tips Verdict
Chelsea won 2-1 when these sides met at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, with a late defensive mixup gifting Torres the winning goal. City won last season’s equivalent fixture 2-0 and have, in fact, emerged victorious from each of their last four home matches against the Blues.
Chelsea shut up shop in goalless draws away to Manchester United and Arsenal earlier this season and are likely to adopt a similarly cautious approach on Monday. They will look to sit deep, defend solidly and break quickly, either with long balls forward into the channels or through the ball carrying ability of Hazard and Willian.
Man City play an open brand of attacking football and while they will certainly have to be wary of the swiftness with which Chelsea counter, will be confident that their mix of pace, power and invention is sufficient to get them the goals required for victory.
Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham have all lost at the Etihad this season. Chelsea are likely to be next.
- Back Man City to win @ 10/11 with Bet365, BetVictor or William Hill.
- Both of these sides tend to come on stronger in the second half of matches, with 61.8% of City’s and 60.5% of Chelsea’s league goals this season coming after half time. In addition, two of the three goals in their meeting at Stamford Bridge came in the second half. With this in mind, back the second half to be the highest scoring half @ best odds of 23/20 with William Hill.
These two teams are the bookies’ favourites in the title race:
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