Pep Guardiola's high-flying Manchester City take on Chelsea in a top-of-the-table Premier League clash at the Etihad on Saturday, January 15.
Manchester City claimed a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season – on September 25 – which was Pep Guardiola's first win over Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea. Indeed, before the last game, the German enjoyed a perfect 3-0 record against Pep Guardiola since he joined the Blues last winter, including a FA Cup semi-final victory and most importantly a glorious Champions League triumph.
Manchester City Betting Preview (-151 @ MyBookie)
This will be City's first home game of the calendar year and Pep Guardiola's men have won seven in a row at the Etihad. Moreover, they were ruthless to score a total of 13 goals in their last two home matches (7-0 against Leeds and 6-3 against Leicester City in the Premier League).
Pep Guardiola's side are on a 11-game winning streak in the Premier League – since a shock 2-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace in late-October – and their title credentials are built on solid foundations.
Manchester City's remarkable form has seen them run away with first place and a season double over Chelsea will make the gap between them even bigger.
This will be City's first League game since a hard-fought 2-1 comeback win at Arsenal on New Year's Day, when Rodri's stoppage-time winner earned Manchester City a valuable three points.
Pep Guardiola's men have won 12 on the bounce domestically (including a 4-1 FA Cup win at Swindon Town last Friday) and will be keen to take another big step towards their fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
Should Man City beat Chelsea, the gap between them and the Blues could go to 13 points and Pep Guardiola's men must play out a mediocre second half of the season (while their main opponents Chelsea and Liverpool must be flawless) to lose the top spot.
Kyle Walker returned to first-team action at the weekend after exactly a month on the sidelines, while the likes of John Stones, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Phil Foden are all doubts.
Elsewhere, Riyad Mahrez is at the AFCON with defending champions Algeria, so Gabriel Jesus is expected to start along with City's false nine Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling, who have been Guardiola's leading strikers with seven league goals each so far.
After a sluggish start of the season, Raheem Sterling reignited his prolific form and the England international should get the nod over summer signing Jack Grealish, who started just one of City's last four league matches.
Furthermore, City’s preparations were handed a huge boost as Pep Guardiola is set to return to the dugout for this weekend's clash with title rivals Chelsea after the Spaniard was forced to isolate and missed the FA Cup clash against Swindon Town due to Covid.
Chelsea Betting Preview (+370 @ MyBookie)
There were signs that Chelsea could possibly inspire a winning streak after Christmas thanks to a 3-1 Boxing Day win at Aston Villa, yet The Blues will return to Premier League action following two disappointing draws against Brighton (1-1) and Liverpool (2-2) at Stamford Bridge.
Having won just one of their last five Premier League matches (1-4-0), The Blues sit a whopping 10 points behind defending champions and league leaders Manchester City ahead of their clash at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.
Thomas Tuchel's men, though, have raised spirits recently in the domestic cups, overcoming National League side Chesterfield in the FA Cup third round and then qualifying for the final of the League Cup with an impressive 3-0 aggregate victory against Antonio Conte's Tottenham.
The European champions remain busy on four different fronts and the latest injury setbacks are not the best course of their first full campaign under Thomas Tuchel. However, a positive outcome against a rampant Manchester City side at the Etihad could seriously boost their confidence and influence their silverware aspirations.
Thomas Tuchel will need Romelu Lukaku at his best level. The Belgian forward is looking to find his optimal form and heal wounds at Stamford Bridge and, as Tuchel said, goals are the only remedy for Lukaku.
Lukaku returned to the squad last week after being dropped over an unsanctioned interview in which he questioned Thomas Tuchel’s tactics. He was recalled for the first leg against Spurs at Stamford Bridge, which The Blues won 2-0 and even though he did not score, Tuchel stated: “Romelu had a huge physical impact.”
Kai Havertz, who scored the winning goal against Man City in the Champions League final last year, should start in Chelsea's front three alongside Mason Mount and Romelu Lukaku, while Timo Werner, who started at Tottenham in midweek, could drop to the bench.
With Edouard Mendy representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Kepa Arrizabalaga should remain in goal. The Spaniard made a number of saves and kept a clean sheet in both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur, showing what he's capable of.
Veteran Thiago Silva and influential midfielder N'Golo Kante both returned from isolation in midweek, but the latter may have to settle for a place on the bench against City (given Mateo Kovacic's contribution this season), whereas Silva's leadership would be more needed than ever.
Thomas Tuchel is definitely expected to be without three other players for the weekend as youngster Trevoh Chalobah is set to be out for a couple of weeks, while wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell are long-term absentees.
So with Chalobah and James both ruled out, Anders Christensen should slot in at centre-back while captain César Azpilicueta plays at right wing-back.
Update: Denmark defender Andreas Christensen has become the latest Chelsea player to test positive for Covid, ruling him out of Saturday's clash, so Callum Hudson-Odoi may have to start.
Possible Starting Lineups of Manchester City and Chelsea
Manchester City: Ederson – Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, Joao Cancelo – Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne – Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling. (4-3-3)
Chelsea: Kepa Arrizabalaga – Antonio Rüdiger, Thiago Silva, César Azpilicueta – Marcos Alonso, Mateo Kovacic, Jorginho, Callum Hudson-Odoi – Mason Mount, Kai Havertz – Romelu Lukaku. (3-4-2-1)
Spooky Express Betting Prediction
Chelsea have endured a December blip but the Blues are getting back on track and the looming clash against a rampant Manchester City side should be a proper test of their ability.
The Cityzens, on the other hand, haven't looked as sound defensively over the past weeks with just one clean sheet across their last four but with 12 wins from 14 at the Etihad this season they are expected to get three points here.
Manchester City have scored 31 goals in 10 Premier League matches at the Etihad this term and their style could be unplayable at times. Their amazing strength in depth makes them not reliant on a single player and Chelsea must produce a flawless defensive performance, yet they need to be clinical in front of goal – what was the case in last season's Champions League final.
We can say that a win at the Etihad is an absolute must if the Blues are to stand any chance of catching Man City but the pressure and some key absentees could be too much. However, unlike the first leg, they should be capable of scoring at least one goal.