Glamour tie between Chelsea and Manchester City sees both sides in search of top four position
Manchester City to win 2-1
Chelsea and Manchester City have enjoyed varied starts to the season across the last few months.
The team from London started much stronger than their opponents, blasting into the top four early on after spending £200m on new recruits which seemed to have bedded in nicely.
City were much slower off the mark, winning just two of their opening five matches and sitting in the bottom half of the table until the start of November.
Their fortunes have changed recently, however. Both teams are now level on 26 points with a goal difference of four all that separates the two.
Going into this, the most glamourous tie of the New Year so far, Man City are definitely in better form with four victories from their past six matches. Chelsea, on the other hand, have one win from their last five, with several critics claiming that Lampard’s job could be under threat.
This should be an entertaining game.
Form Guide (all comps): LLWLD
Reasons to be cheerful:
Have the players to do damage to City
Only Liverpool have a better home record this season
Reasons to be fearful:
Loss of form to key players is worrying
Taken just four points from the previous 15 available
Chelsea, and their manager Frank Lampard, face a defining section of their season, one which could shape how they progress for the remainder of the campaign.
Lampard has himself been critical of his players in recent times, especially in their defeat against Arsenal, calling out his players for being “lazy” and “lacking desire”. These are not normally the words of an expensively assembled squad.
Players such as Timo Werner and Kai Havertz have struggled for form, Ziyech and Pulisic have suffered injuries, meaning that the goalscoring burden has been placed heavily on the likes of Abraham and the ageing Giroud.
Both have done well, but Chelsea cannot challenge for the title without all of their players fit and firing.
City will be a huge test for them.
Star Man – Olivier Giroud
Is Chelsea’s Mr Dependable, with 11 goals in his last 14 starts.
Form Guide (all comps): DDWWW
Reasons to be cheerful
Can go 3rd with their two games in hand
Their defensive improvement has masked struggle for goals
Reasons to be fearful
Five players isolating after Covid-19 infection
Record against big clubs is ropey this season
Manchester City have slowly but surely worked their way back into contention this season, after a disappointing start by their standards.
They remain 8th going into this match, but should they win their two games in hand, they will go 3rd, a point behind Liverpool and United at the top.
City have also enjoyed a slightly longer break since their last match, as their fixture against Everton was postponed – eight days is a long time to prepare at this stage of the season.
It does, of course, mean that City will be without five players – Jesus, Walker plus three unnamed individuals – for this match as they must now isolate.
With the squad at Pep Guardiola’s disposal, he will still be confident that the form of his players can bring a positive result for City this weekend.
Star Man – Ferran Torres
Has been a mainstay since his summer signing, and is now joint-top scorer for City this season with seven.
Tight game to call, with possession evenly split
Neither side will want to concede first
City are slight favourites
Understandably, with the two sides being so close in the table and separated by just goal difference, this is a close one to call.
Both teams have fantastic players, but have recently struggled to score goals in the numbers they are used to.
City have the better defence, in fact the tightest in the league, which could just give them the edge here.
Manchester City to win 2-1