Premier League | Etihad Stadium | Sun 21 Sep | 4pm
The title decider. In September.
MAN CITY FORM
- Bayern 1-0 Man City (CL)
- Arsenal 2-2 Man City (Prem)
- Man City 0-1 Stoke (Prem)
- Man City 3-1 Liverpool (Prem)
- Newcastle 0-2 Man City (Prem)
- Chelsea 1-1 Schalke (CL)
- Chelsea 4-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Everton 3-6 Chelsea (Prem)
- Chelsea 2-0 Leicester (Prem)
- Burnley 1-3 Chelsea (Prem)
It seems strange to be describing games this early in the season as pivotal to the title. Many of the cheques signed on transfer deadline day probably haven't cleared yet and surely nothing is set in stone in September.
But if the opening month of the Premier League 2014/15 season has taught us anything, it's that Chelsea are going to take some stopping if they're not to make this campaign less a title race and more a cakewalk. Of the few teams that appear nimble enough to keep up with them over a 38-game dash, champions Manchester City are perhaps the most complete.
Last season, the head-to-heads between these teams were settled by small margins. But on both occasions Chelsea were victorious. Fernando Torres capitalised on a defensive mix-up late on to condemn Manuel Pellegrini's men to a 2-1 defeat in October before Branislav Ivanovic smashed City's fearsome unbeaten home record at the Etihad Stadium to hand Chelsea a 1-0 win in February.
City's home record this season hasn't taken so long to crack. Stoke smashed up the form guide early, and City will be hoping it's not back-to-back home defeats when they take on Jose Mourinho's team.
Chelsea's 100% start means already they go into the game five points clear, though after Sunday's game the champions will have already faced Arsenal away, Liverpool at home and Chelsea at home - ostensibly their three main rivals for the title.
What's apparent is that Mourinho relishes these heavyweight battles. The Blues took 16 points from a possible 18 in games against the top four last season, unbeaten with just one solitary draw blotting a perfect win rate. Throw Cesc Fabregas, Thibault Courtois and Diego Costa into the mix and that four-point gap between title winners City and third-placed Chelsea last season looks like it could quite easily be bridged. We'll learn much about both side's championship credentials come Sunday.
Mourinho will decide between Costa and Didier Drogba in attack, the pair nursing hamstring and ankle injuries. With seven goals scored already, clearly the Chelsea boss will be hoping Costa is fit enough to feature after being rested against Schalke. But Loic Remy, lest we forget, is a capable replacement too having scored against Swansea. City are likely to be without Stevan Jovetic and Fernando due to injury.
Key battle: Vincent Kompany vs Diego Costa
Should the Spanizilian feature, the battle between himself and City captain Kompany is likely to be a determining factor in the game's outcome. Costa's ability in tight spaces is remarkable - something Chelsea were sorely lacking last season. It was a failing in their game that cost them several times, particularly against the so-called lesser sides, but having Costa around has remedied that - most of his goals have been scrappy, almost half chances where the ball bobbles around in the area desperate to be loved. Kompany will have to keep tight to his man at all times and not go walkabouts like Ashley Williams last week.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- City 2-0 Chelsea (FAC, Feb 14)
- City 0-1 Chelsea (PL, Feb 14)
- Chelsea 2-1 City (PL, Oct 13)
- Chelsea 1-2 City (FAC, Apr 13)
- City 2-0 Chelsea (PL, Feb 13)
The enmity between these two is well-documented, with Mr. Shake Hands Man-gate cropping up last season as the pair avoided a manual embrace at the final whistle of City's 2-1 defeat. Pellegrini is something of an underrated tactician, it seems, but after Mourinho did the double over the Chilean last season he'll be looking for revenge on his fellow Real Madrid alumni this time around.
Facts and figures
- City have only failed to score in 2 of their last 71 home league games, against Stoke last time out and against Chelsea last season.
- Chelsea have won away at City more often than any other team in Premier League history (11 times).
- Diego Costa has scored 7 goals in the first 4 games of the season; the Premier League record 5 games into the campaign is 9 by Wayne Rooney in 2011/12.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Post-Champions League weary legs could be a factor for both teams but Chelsea's options from the bench along with Mourinho's tactical tinkering see them nick it again. 1-2.
Back 1-2 at 11/1 with Bet365. Odds right at time of publication