Right, so after a couple of overly one-sided contests in the 2015-16 Premier League season, we can say that this Saturday’s Manchester City v Chelsea tussle has the makings of being an even contest… for starters.
Talking about the last Premier League season, what we can also not forget is the resumption of normal duty, with the usual suspects for the title—these two teams along with Liverpool (currently second) and Arsenal (currently fourth), taking into account Manchester United‘s downturn in recent seasons—occupying the top four positions ahead of gameweek 14.
Manchester City and Chelsea are enjoying very good seasons: while Pep Guardiola’s men will be happy with where they are on the Premier League table at this stage of the season and their qualification for the R-16 of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League as well, Antonio Conte’s men have flabbergasted the football watching public by their incredibly swift rise to the top of the Premier League standings, considering that they suffered a morale-denting 3-0 defeat to Arsenal only in the last week of September and were miles off even the top four then.
Looking ahead to this Saturday’s clash, which, if you ask me, is the first most crucial in the 2016-17 Premier League title race, why Chelsea are the team under pressure?
Manchester City v Chelsea
Exactly a couple of months ago, Guardiola’s side visited White Hart Lane for an important Premier League clash against Tottenham Hotspur. Both teams had been unbeaten and the visitors, in particular, had looked utterly menacing ahead of that game, having started the 16/17 Premier League season with six wins on the trot.
But, disappointingly for City, they were unable to get their passing game going and made far too many individual errors in and out of possession, to even give themselves a chance. Having said so, we can, in no way, deny Spurs the credit they totally deserve for strangulating what was a slick Guardiola and City machine at that time. City were suffocated and before they could catch their breath back, Spurs had raced into a 2-0 lead. And, although their high-pressing game wore them out as the game progressed, Spurs did enough to inflict the first defeat of Guardiola’s era.
Chelsea’s visit of the Etihad Stadium is similar to the game aforementioned, between City and Spurs. Conte’s men are playing exceedingly well, thriving on the 3-4-3 formation that has underpinned their seven-game winning streak, and as a team, the West Londoners are functioning superbly. Although Eden Hazard has shone in many of their wins, team effort has what brought more than the desired success for the London club.
On the flip side, Manchester City have become mercurial, again since their first defeat of the season, to Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs. They have lacked the rhythm they exuded in the 172nd Manchester Derby, are making too many defensive errors and going forward too, City are proving overly reliant on customary magic from Kevin de Bruyne, with the clash against Borussia Monchengladbach on matchday five of the Champions League being a prime example of all of City’s traits.
Although Sergio Aguero scored a brace against Burnley and won City the game last weekend, in my opinion, the Argentine has been wayward for much of this season. He has scored goals in twos and threes and tucked away a couple of his penalties, but in 18 appearances in all competitions, Aguero has, having gone on to play 80 minutes or more, failed to score on seven of those. By Aguero’s standards, I’d say, ‘his performances have been slightly below par.’
We can say that City have showed a lot of character to grind out results when they haven’t even been close to their best; but only time will tell whether City actually have serious shortcomings or if they are just going through a bad spell.
From Chelsea’s perspective, they are in form and are a confident side too because of the way they have performed for a couple of months now. Confidence can be a double-edged sword, but because they have played well, Chelsea, who have in place a functioning blueprint, have greater expectations to fulfill on Saturday.
The West Londoners have almost every one of their players on top of their game and in sync with their team-mates: Diego Costa is no more a lethal goalscorer alone, for he is starting to deliver assists (Costa has created the third-most number of chances (22) for a Chelsea player in the Premier League this season and already has four assists to his name), Hazard is a player reborn, Pedro Rodriguez has been utterly ebullient and magical on the ball, Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante are proving to be a solid shield for the back three and to their right, at least, Victor Moses is making a name for himself.
And, with so much going for them, heading into the clash against Manchester City this weekend, we cannot downplay Chelsea’s chances of continuing their seven-game winning streak. Although you need to be good on the day, which is what Saturday’s hosts will be banking on, Chelsea are the team in form and go into this Saturday’s meeting with the third-placed City, with expectations to fulfill!
City are arguably the most resourceful side of the 20 Premier League sides and from that viewpoint, if there is a team capable of posing Chelsea difficult questions, then Guardiola’s side is the one. But since the end of September, Manchester City haven’t clicked as a unit and going up against the most in-form outfit, the hosts need to be at their best, ideally, to contain the visitors and give themselves a chance of winning as well.
Dear reader, make use of the comments section below and tell us who do you fancy to win this Saturday.