The Champions head back to Manchester to face the Champions-elect
Chelsea visit Manchester for the second Sunday in succession as they try to put a stop to Manchester City’s procession of a title victory. Pep Guardiola’s men are hunting many Premier League records that Chelsea hold and the Blues could be 5 points off the Champions League places by the time they kick off at the Etihad so there’s plenty to play for.
Antonio Conte confirmed on Friday that David Luiz and Tiemoue Bakayoko will both miss the game through injury once more while Ethan Ampadu is also out.
Manchester City are likely to be without Fernandinho because of the hamstring injury he picked up in last Sunday’s Carabao Cup final.
Raheem Sterling is also a doubt while Fabian Delph serves the last game of his 3-match suspension.
Probable Man City XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany, Otamendi, Danilo; D. Silva, Gundogan, De Bruyne; B. Silva, Aguero, Sane
Probable Chelsea XI (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Fabregas, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Giroud, Hazard
N’Golo Kante will be a key figure in midfield and his performance could decide how the game pans out. With Fernandinho likely to be out injured, Kante will be the only midfielder in either side that is defensively minded. If he’s on his game, he could stifle the threat of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.
Sergio Aguero has 6 goals in his last 5 games in all competitions and will try to make Andreas Christensen’s life a nightmare on Sunday afternoon. But it’s not only Aguero who’s a goal threat, Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses will have to watch out for the direct runs of Leroy Sane and the technically gifted Bernardo Silva if they’re going to have any chance of keeping a clean sheet.
Up the other end, Olivier Giroud could be deployed by Antonio Conte to hold up the ball and give the defence some restbite with the hosts likely to dominate the possession. Giroud’s ability to bring Eden Hazard and Willian into play will be extremely useful if he gets the right service and can fend off the physical challenge of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi.
Chelsea’s Record at the Etihad
The Blues have had a very consistent record away to Manchester City over the years. Take the last two years – they stormed to a 3-1 win there last season after Gary Cahill’s own-goal put City in front but the season before Jose Mourinho’s side were convincingly beaten 3-0 at the start of the season.
However, results at the Etihad have taken a turn for the better recently. Before the start of the 2013/14 season, Chelsea had lost each of their last 4 visits but City have won just 1 league game on their own patch since then.
Chelsea have kept just 1 clean sheet since 2008 at the Etihad and that came during the 2013/14 season when Branislav Ivanovic’s goal decided the game in a typical Jose Mourinho away performance against the eventual Premier League winners that season.
Manchester City have a points-per-game ratio of 2.67 in the Premier League this season which means that they’re expected to finish on 101 points come May. That’s 6 points more of the Premier League record set by Chelsea in 2005 so if the Blues take any points off City on Sunday it’ll help preserve their own record as well as help towards pursuing a Top 4 spot this season.