WILL DYER (@w2Dyer) previews the Premier League game of the weekend which could have a big say on the title race. Two astute managers go toe-to-toe for the first time, who'll come out on top?
Manchester City v Chelsea | Saturday 12:30 | Sky Sports 1
Manchester City host the country’s in-form club, Chelsea, at Etihad on Saturday lunchtime in what promises to be an enjoyable game. The Blues have won seven consecutive league games, conceding just the one goal last weekend at home to Spurs.
Last season the Citizens took Chelsea apart 3-0, both home and away. Sergio Aguero scoring four of those goals but it was a Premier League campaign to forget for the West London club and one that we shouldn’t read too much into.
Under Antonio Conte, Chelsea have been superb. The players have responded well, adapting to his tactics and formation very quickly. The Italian manager received the Manager of the Month award for October and his shift to a 3-4-3 has transformed the fortunes of Victor Moses.
Playing Cesar Azpilicueta in a back three has it’s benefits. He laps over with Moses at times to create confusion on the right wing but also offers something different to his centre-backs, David Luiz and Gary Cahill. On the other wing, Marcos Alonso has featured in all of the last seven games.
Dropping Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry should have happened under Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink. Both have been brilliant servants to the club but a new era has begun and their declining form was a major contributor to last season’s woes.
Citizen's porous back-line
On to Man City, they are unbeaten in six now after overcoming a dip in form where they were winless in as many games during October. The 3-1 victory over Barcelona certainly boosted their confidence defensively they are still no way near where they should be.
Vincent Kompany’s desperately unfortunate return to the starting line-up was a real blow. It was no coincidence that City didn’t concede in the first-half at Selhurst Park with their defensive marshal on the pitch.
It means that City must rely on Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones throughout the Christmas period and with their fragilities at left and right-back I expect that will mean a severe lack of shutouts; it’s a frankly ludicrous solitary clean sheet in 14 matches now for Pep’s men.
Chelsea tough to beat
Considering Chelsea have now won seven league games on the trot I think they are quite a big price at 27/10 with BetVictor. They look the more all-round package to me and I’d be favouring them at the current prices for the title.
I’ll therefore side with them on the +0.50 Asian Handicap line at 13/15 with 188Bet. I feel that Conte is just the right kind of man to set his side up to avoid defeat.
These are the kind of games that Chelsea excelled in under Jose Mourinho and I expect that battling DNA to re-emerge in the key games for the Blues this season.
Both Teams To Score also looks a good route to go with Man City’s record over the last 18 months. Fifteen of the last 25 league games at Etihad have banked for the BTTS bet – 13/20 with BetVictor looks a good price to me.