WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) previews the big midweek clash between Manchester City and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea v Manchester City | Wednesday 20:00 | BT Sport 1
Chelsea casted some doubt over their stranglehold on the title when losing at home to Crystal Palace last weekend. Tottenham won on Saturday to close the gap to seven points but unfortunately, for Man City fans, their side failed to hold onto the lead twice at the Emirates, meaning they’re still 11 behind.
The defeat at home to Palace wasn’t one I’ll hold against Chelsea too much. The Eagles scored two well-worked goals and the Blues pushed and pushed with 73% of the possession and 24 attempts at goal.
It was a signature Sam Allardyce ‘snatch and grab’ performed by a confident side who’ve now won four on the bounce. Not an embarrassment by any stretch.
Same Old City
Manchester City found plenty of space against Arsenal, which lead to some sublime attacks but, as usual, they combined that with some defensive naivety. City were the more deserving of the three points but they’ve now drawn three on the bounce.
Should they beat Chelsea then they’ll be eight points behind the leaders. Five years ago this week, the Citizens were eight points behind their city rivals, Manchester United, and we all know what happened there.
It is possible, but highly unlikely. If they are to lift a third Premier League trophy in six years then this is a must win fixture.
Antonio Conte will expect a response and a statement of intent from his players. Any sustained loss of momentum, say a draw here, could kick in some serious jitters to their performances more permanently. There’s been a notable trend in their results over the last two months; just two clean sheets in eight games.
Prior to the 1-1 draw at Anfield, Chelsea had kept clean sheets in seven of their last 10 games. This defensive slip has resulted in tighter scorelines and ultimately a bad result when the front three don’t combine to the best effect.
Chelsea’s 3-1 win at Etihad in early December was the game which convinced many of us of their title credentials. That win was their eighth on the trot in the league and sent them three points clear of Arsenal. They came from behind to win and countered perfectly late on.
The same as in the reverse fixture, I see Man City lacking the nous to go to Stamford Bridge and pull off a victory.
Last season they managed to power past the Blues 3-0 through a Sergio Aguero hat-trick but it was a very dejected Chelsea side about to finish 10th in the Premier League, prior to that they hadn’t won at the Bridge in five visits since 2010.
Now that Leroy Sane is regularly contributing, City’s attack is firing on all cylinders. Combine that with the fact that they’ve scored on each of their last five trips to Stamford Bridge and the Blues’ hiccups at the back and a home clean sheet looks unlikely.
Manchester City keeping a clean sheet is something I’m never confident in. Interestingly, Chelsea have scored in all of their last 21 home games in all competitions since they last hosted the Sky Blues.
However, I’m not one for superstitions and Chelsea have displayed such supreme attacking prowess this season that I think a home goal is inevitable. The bookies seem to agree as they’ve priced Both Teams To Score up at a best price of 4/7.
I think the visitors desperation for a result could see them throw this one away and I fancy Chelsea to win by scorelines of either 2-1 or 3-1. The former is currently boosted to 10/1 with Skybet and the latter is 18/1 at Bet365, both tasty prices.
Four of Chelsea’s last five Premier League wins have been by one of those scores.