Manchester City vs Chelsea | Sunday 16 August | Etihad Stadium | 17:00
English Premier League champions Chelsea will meet last season’s runners-up Manchester City in what promises to be a mouth-watering encounter which will certainly have title ramifications. City are coming off a resounding 3-0 win at West Bromwich Albion, while the Blues will be targeting their first win of the new season having drawn 2-2 at home to Swansea in their opening match. Chelsea are unbeaten against City in the last four league meetings with two wins and two draws.
To Win (90mins)
Manchester City 1/1
Manchester City swaggered to an emphatic 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion in their Premier League opener on Monday at the Hawthorns, surging to the summit of the table in the process. Goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure gave the visitors a 2-0 lead at the interval, preceding a powerful Vincent Kompany header just before the hour mark that put Manuel Pellegrini's men safely ahead. The Citizens will now turn their attentions to Chelsea as they look to improve on their recent record with the reigning champions. Manchester City haven’t beaten the Blues in the league since the 2012/13 season and they know that victory over the champions is crucial as it would give them a five point lead over Jose Mourinho’s team. Pellegrini will be also looking to get one over Mourinho for his own personal delight given the bitter feud between the two managers. The Chilean has only beaten Mourinho once in eleven attempts with the Portuguese winning seven times with three draws. City have a plethora of weapons in their squad and will be confident of beating any team they come up against. Silva is the catalyst in most of City’s attacking play with his vision to see a defence-splitting pass. He has amazing dribbling, clever passing and initiative with the ball. Another key attribute Silva has is his football intelligence. He can easily use his savvy to outplay his opponents. His left foot can unlock even the best defences and Chelsea will need to do a good job in closing him down.
City would have been pleased with Toure’s impressive display against the Baggies and will be hoping the Ivorian will be at his best against Chelsea. He’s strong, powerful, with exceptionally quick feet for a man standing more than six feet tall. He can strike the ball with immense force and has a devastating range of passing. When he and his cohort Silva are on song, City are a formidable proposition. The expensive Raheem Sterling will be looking to prove his worth and hassle Chelsea’s full backs with his pace, dribbling and quick feet. Sterling has always been a threat to Mourinho’s side during his time at Liverpool and will be eager to step up to the big occasion. City might even be stronger should they complete the signing of former Chelsea and current Wolfsburg playmaker Kevin De Bruyne this week. Up front Sergio Aguero should return to the line-up at the expense of Wilfried Bony. The Argentinian is capable of tearing apart back-lines with his pace and agility and always able to put a shot on target within even the most suffocating defences. The only concern about Aguero is whether he is match fit having only played thirty minutes following his return from the Copa America.
Chelsea had to settle for just a point in their opener against Swansea as they drew 2-2 after going down to ten men, which ultimately denied them the opportunity to kickstart their title defence with a victory. The Blues will definitely feel like it was two points lost rather than one point gained but given the news that their rivals Arsenal suffered a 2-0 defeat to West Ham at home the next day, the draw isn’t the worst result after all. Chelsea will need to be focused as they come up against Manchester City targeting their first win of the new season. The champions are undefeated at the Etihad in their last two league meetings having drawn the corresponding fixture 1-1 last season before winning 1-0 in the 2013/14 campaign. The Blues look set be without first-choice ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois for this clash following his red card against Swansea, although various reports suggest that Chelsea will look to the FA in the hope of having Courtois' subsequent one-match suspension rescinded. If the reports are true and the FA reject Chelsea's appeal then new signing Asmir Begovic will start in goal which shouldn’t be seen as a weak point. Begovic is a high-quality ‘keeper with loads of talent and experience and the Bosnian will be raring to put in a solid performance and prevent City from scoring goals.
Jose Mourinho has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal and highly-rated Ghanaian left back Baba Rahman could be included in the squad to face City should he complete his move in time. Cesc Fabregas remains the go-to player in the current system and his eighteen assists last year was instrumental in ensuring success. His role is crucial in ensuring that Chelsea’s attacking intent doesn’t become stagnant. Willian is another vital player for Mourinho’s side and gives his best to the team. His pace, strength, desire and determination are what make him a great player and he will be looking to make an impact against the Citizens. With frightening speed, even greater dribbling skills and a penchant for the unpredictable, Eden Hazard is Chelsea’s best player. Against packed defences, Hazard’s ability to take defenders out of the game is invaluable, as it opens up space for himself and his teammates. Chelsea will be relieved to have Diego Costa fully fit for this crucial match. Costa showed no signs of injury concerns as he put in a tireless effort against Swansea especially when the champions went down to ten men. Powerful and strong, Costa can bully defenders and then use his pace when a change is required. Incredibly competitive, his passion and will to win is second to none and his finishing is of the highest class – taming the beast will be City’s greatest challenge.
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VERDICT: Draw 23/10
Chelsea have done incredibly well against Manchester City in recent meetings and that is particularly down to the tactical astuteness of Mourinho. The Special One thrives on the big occasions and will be going all out to see his team get a positive result. It should be a tight affair as there is very little to separate the two sides with the last two meetings ending in 1-1 draws. This match could go either way but the draw looks very likely at 23/10. Another good bet would be Chelsea to win or draw at 7/10.