Two of the top three in the Premier League do battle at the Etihad Stadium this weekend, with Manchester City playing host to table-toppers Chelsea (12.30pm Saturday, Sky Sports 1).
Pep Guardiola’s charges made it two wins on the bounce when they came from behind to defeat Burnley last time out, with Sergio Aguero’s brace proving to be decisive at Turf Moor. Man City started the game poorly and deservedly fell behind thanks to a fine strike from Dean Marney, but they then took control of proceedings after the first 20 minutes and were well worth their victory by the time the final whistle was blown.
The two-time Premier League champions seem to have come out the other side of their recent stuttering spell. Between the start of October and the beginning of November, City won only one of their six domestic outings. They now look a dangerous proposition once more, with just a single point separating them from their upcoming opponents at the summit of the standings. Nevertheless, their home form remains a slight concern. Man City have not emerged victorious from a Premier League clash in front of their own supporters since the middle of September.
Chelsea made it seven victories in a row last weekend, as they also overturned a one-goal deficit to triumph 2-1 against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Antonio Conte’s men struggled in the first half, with their opponents pressing them in advanced areas and preventing the ball from reaching the feet of the hosts’ attacking players, but a goal from Pedro (pictured) on the stroke of half-time marked the start of the turnaround.
After the interval, Chelsea took the initiative and were by far the better team, with Victor Moses grabbing what turned out to be the winning goal in the 53rd minute. The Blues are in scintillating form at present, with Conte having found the right balance between attack and defence. Spurs’ opener scored by Christian Eriksen at the weekend was the only time Chelsea’s backline has been breached in their last seven Premier League outings.
Man City will have to make do without club captain Vincent Kompany (knee) and Fabian Delph (groin), but Raheem Sterling should recover from a knock in time to feature. Kevin De Bruyne was rested for the meeting with Burnley but will surely return to the starting XI for this one. Fellow midfield players David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan were also left out of Guardiola’s line-up last weekend, with both vying for a place in the engine room this time around. John Stones could be recalled into the heart of the backline at the expense of Aleksandar Kolarov, while Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna are competing for the right-back slot.
Chelsea are without John Terry (muscular problem) and John Obi Mikel (muscle) for their trip to the Etihad. Conte will almost certainly stick with the same starting XI once more, with the Blues having shown no reason to make any changes with their performances and results in recent weeks. The front three of Eden Hazard, Pedro and Diego Costa will cause problems for City’s backline, while midfielders N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic will have to be at the top of their game to ensure Chelsea are not overrun in the centre of the park.
Turning to thoughts of this preview’s betting tips, and our ongoing battle to beat the online bookmakers, we can see Man City winning this game. Guardiola’s men have been improving in their last few encounters and could have some joy in pressing the league leaders high up the pitch, an approach which bore fruit for Tottenham last Saturday evening. For our second betting tip, this match preview believes Belgian playmaker De Bruyne represents good value at the odds to score a goal at any time.