Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester City vs Chelsea

Competition: Premier League – Manchester City vs. Chelsea

Venue: Etihad Stadium – Saturday, December 3 – 12:30 GMT (07:30 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester City 11/10 – Draw 5/2 – Chelsea 12/5

Match Preview

Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday lunchtime in a mouthwatering fixture in the race for the Premier League title.

Pep Guardiola’s side trail league leaders Chelsea by just one point ahead of this tie and just three points separate the top four. This is a crunch game for City, who need to make sure they win and put an end to Chelsea’s winning run.

City come into the game having come from behind to beat Burnley in a scrappy game that showed their resilience to win, something they’ll need to show once again here.

While many are saying it is too early for results to impact the race for the title, a loss for City here could be disastrous for the squad mentally. Guardiola has experience coaching against Chelsea and will know his side are up against a team that never know when they’re beat.

Embed from Getty Images

Chelsea are the inform team in the Premier League. They have won seven in row, conceding just once and scoring 19.

Antonio Conte is pleased with his side, especially the spirit they showed to come from behind to beat Spurs last weekend. Many have questioned whether or not going behind would upset the balance for Chelsea in their unbeaten run, but they proved they are capable of turning a game in their favour.

Chelsea have struggled at the Etihad, they have won just once in their last eight visits in all competitions and, like practically every Premier League club, have constantly been on the receiving end of a Sergio Aguero masterclass.

This a game Chelsea have to avoid defeat in. It will put them in a really good position for their upcoming December fixtures, while no league game is easy, they have some favourable games over the Christmas period and could capitalise on that to give themselves some cushioning at the top.

Embed from Getty Images

Team News

Vincent Kompany remains out for Manchester City, while there are concerns about Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling, who are both doubts.

Chelsea are expected to remain unchanged for the eighth game in a row. John Terry will be out, while Kurt Zouma and Marco van Ginkel are not yet ready to be considered for selection. Diego Costa is one yellow card away from a one-game ban, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he picks that up here given the intensity of this tie.

Key Points

Manchester City’s form: D/W/D/W/W

Chelsea’s form: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: Chelsea have conceded just once in their seven-game winning streak.

Key Player: Thibaut Courtois – This is easily the biggest challenge of the season for the Chelsea backline. They have been performing very well but face a completely different opponent with the way City will press them on the ball. Courtois will have to be at his best to ensure his side can come away with a win.

Embed from Getty Images

Score Prediction

Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea – Manchester City are going to give Chelsea a different style of game that no other side has done this season. Their pressing and ball retention will make this a difficult afternoon for Conte’s men. Historically, it is not a happy hunting ground for Chelsea and Aguero & co will make it another to forget for The Blues.

Advertisements

Will this be Conte’s best Chelsea lineup this season?

Chelsea left it late again to take all three points at the weekend in a performance that showed they lacked creativity in the final third and weaknesses in defence. While Antonio Conte’s men have got six points from a possible six, they are yet to show any real cutting edge, but as we know, winning games in the style they have is exactly what potential champions do.

While their early form doesn’t suggest Chelsea will win the title this season, they are already grinding out results when needing to. If they can improve performances they will be in a great position to challenge for silverware this term.

It’s obvious there is still work to be done at Chelsea for them to improve. Conte has made it clear he wants another defender and rightly so, as there have been the same defensive issues troubling them in the early stages of this season that were apparent throughout the disappointing 2015/16 campaign.

Conte has been making game-changing substitutions that have without question won Chelsea both of their matches so far. So let’s have a look at their potential best starting lineup and how a formation change could be needed to improve their performances from here on out.

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

Potential starting XI via lineupbuilder.com

As we can see above, the 4-1-3-2 is a less common formation but something that has a lot of potential to work for Chelsea. Regardless of who has been in charge at the club, 4-2-3-1 has been the preferred Chelsea formation, but it has become predictable and is showing signs of weakness.

The 4-1-3-2 formation allows a completely different dynamic to the setup. While the apparent strength of attacking wingers – who both play high up the pitch and drop in for defensive play – is still a key theme, the option of two strikers will provide a headache for opposition defenders.

Forward play:

Michy Batshuayi has to be starting alongside Diego Costa. The two have played less than a half of football together this season and already appear to have a telepathic relationship brewing. Batshuayi’s knockdown to Costa allowed the Spaniard to net the winner in their opening game against West Ham and both strikers were on the scoresheet at the weekend, with the goals finally coming while they were both on the pitch.

Having a striker next to him affords Costa more room to manoeuvre, get in behind and go unnoticed as he is not up against both centre-backs at the same time.

Embed from Getty Images

In the middle: 

Chelsea lacked creativity throughout their game against Watford at the weekend and it was only when Cesc Fabregas came on that they looked threatening. Fabregas creates so much room for his teammates both on and off the ball, as opponents know they cannot afford to give him space. As soon as the Spaniard gets on the ball he is looking for a defence-splitting pass or to bring a winger into play.

Having Fabregas come in for Matic also allows Kante to drop into the deeper anchoring role on his own, where he is at his best. Kante can then break up play and continually feed Fabregas with the ball rather than having to try and be a creator himself.

Service to the wingers and forwards was evidently weak in the game against Watford, while the partnership of Matic and Kante is excellent defensively, the pair offer little creativity going forward.

Embed from Getty Images

At the back:

Chelsea still look lacklustre at the back. The positioning of their defenders was to blame for going behind to a screamer of a strike at the weekend, while an inability to clear the ball properly under-pressure in their first game saw their backline breached.

In an ideal starting lineup, Kurt Zouma would play for Chelsea but as we know, he is still a long way off playing. Zouma’s pace and strength make him a great option at right-back, a position where Branislav Ivanovic appears to be struggling.

Embed from Getty Images

Playing this XI also leaves an incredibly strong bench to change things if they aren’t going well for Conte, although many would argue the likes of Oscar, Matic, Ivanovic, Pedro and Victor Moses should be getting a look in to start games.

Moses has made a great impact in both his appearances off the bench this season, while the likes of Matic, Pedro and Ivanovic have somewhat struggled to show their class in the early stages.

Playing a 4-1-3-2 formation would also be beneficial for Oscar, as although he may not start every game ahead of Fabregas he still has the ability to take up other positions such as on the wing or rotate throughout the season in the number ten role.

While we aren’t suggesting Conte will opt for this style of play it is something that could potentially work for Chelsea and make them less predictable going forward. It is going to be interesting to see if the Italian makes any further signings before the window closes and how they will continue to lineup in the coming weeks.

Should Chelsea opt for a different formation? Does Batshuayi need to be starting alongside Costa from now on?

‘Done deal’: Chelsea star on his way to PSG this summer – report

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has been linked with a Stamford Bridge exit for the past few months and it now looks as though he will be moving to France with Paris Saint-Germain, as former Blues player and coach Ray Wilkins has claimed the move is done.

Cech has struggled to see regular action under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea this season following Thibaut Courtois’ return from Atletico Madrid and the Czech Republic international has said he is not willing to spend another season sitting on the bench.

At 32, Cech still has several years ahead of him, and PSG look to have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and Inter Milan to his services if Wilkins is to be believed.

Wilkins made his comments regarding Cech’s future while speaking on beIN Sport during PSG’s 3-1 Champions League loss to Barcelona on Wednesday night.

Current PSG ‘keeper Salvatore Sirigu could be on the way out of the club after some disappointing displays, while the signing of Cech would mean that Spurs star Hugo Lloris would be unlikely to leave White Hart Lane this summer, as he has also been linked with a move back to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

It was reported last week that Cech was close to agreeing a deal to join Roberto Mancini at Inter Milan but it now looks as though PSG will be his next club after making 331 appearances for Chelsea during his 11 seasons at the club.

Would Paris Saint-Germain be a good destination for Petr Cech?

Will Oscar make way as Chelsea swoop for £22m-rated La Liga star?

Chelsea are chasing £22m-rated Atletico Madrid star Koke, according to reports in Spain, and Oscar could be the man to make way for the Spaniard.

The Atletico playmaker, who is also being targeted by Manchester United, has scored twice and created nine in 25 appearances this season and Jose Mourinho could be looking to revamp parts of his squad after his side’s dip in form in 2015.

Koke has impressed in the Champions League this season, creating four goals and scoring two in the seven games so far. He is now preparing for a quarter-final clash against fierce rivals Real Madrid with his Atletico teammates but could be swapping Spain for the Premier League in the coming months.

Oscar was substituted once again this weekend after a quiet first-half against Stoke and could be sold as leverage for Chelsea’s summer transfer business with Juventus reportedly interested.

Embed from Getty Images

Transfermarkt.co.uk rate Oscar to be valued at £35 million and the Brazilian seems more likely to be sold than any of his fellow attacking-midfielders at Stamford Bridge.

With Jose Mourinho keen to abide by Financial Fair Play rules, Chelsea would need to sell at least one key player this summer to fund any big-money moves for transfer targets

Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were both brought in from Liga BBVA last summer and it now looks like Mourinho is looking to reunite Koke with former teammates Thibaut Courtois and Costa at Chelsea.

Will Oscar leave Chelsea this summer? Would Koke be a good signing for the Blues?

Eden Hazard wouldn’t be surprised if teammate is to leave the club

Chelsea star Eden Hazard has claimed he would want to leave a club if he was in the same position as teammate Petr Cech.

Cech has been at Chelsea for 11 years but has had to sit on the bench for most of the season as Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has taken over as Jose Mourinho’s first-choice stopper, meaning that the Czech Republic international is likely to move on this summer.

Hazard spoke with Sky Sports about the situation regarding Cech playing number two to Courtois and revealed he would want to leave the club if he was in the 32 year old’s shoes.

Embed from Getty Images

“Thibaut and Petr are both very good, and when you are on the bench of course you want to play.

“He knows he has the quality to play at a good club, and of course if I’m a good player and I’m on the bench I want to leave – this is football.”

Hazard’s comments come days after Cech announced he would not be happy with another season as Mourinho’s second choice ‘keeper.

Cech has won 12 major trophies with the club, including the prestigious Champions League in 2012.

He knows all about a young star bursting into the first team, as he finds himself in the same position he put Carlo Cudicini in 11 years ago.

Embed from Getty Images

“I don’t know what the club’s idea will be. It looks like it works well with me and Thibaut as a duo,” Cech told the Idnes newspaper.

“But that can work for one season only. I don’t want another one like this.”

This has been a difficult season for Cech, playing just five league games, but Mourinho has opted for the future and the Czech Republic international is yet another of ‘the old guard’ who looks set to depart in the upcoming months, with a host of top clubs interested.

Should Petr Cech move on for more regular football?

Stats: Is Simon Mignolet the best goalkeeper in the Premier League?

Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet continued his fine form last night as he kept his 11th clean sheet of the season in the 1-0 away win at Swansea City in the Premier League and many fans believe that the Belgian stopper is the best goalkeeper in the league at the moment, but what do the statistics say?

Well before we look at the comparisons between Mignolet and some of the league’s finest shot-stoppers, it’s worth noting that Mignolet and his Liverpool teammates kept their sixth straight clean sheet away from home in the league, equalling a record going back 43 years to Bill Shankly’s side of 1971/72.

That impressive run of form has seen Liverpool fly up the table and they are currently just two points behind fourth-placed Manchester United, who they face in a key clash on Sunday.

Embed from Getty Images

The Reds have not lost in the league since mid-December, when they were defeated 3-0 by United and Brendan Rodgers’ side boast the best recent form in the league.

Confidence is clearly flowing through the team and that has led to improved performances. Simon Mignolet is evidence of that as he looked out of sorts and out of favour when Rodgers said he had dropped the Belgian “indefinitely” back in December.

But he has turned things around and looks back to his best. Some are now suggesting that Mignolet is the Premier League’s best goalkeeper at the moment but how does he compare to some of the league’s finest ‘keepers?

Simon Mignolet stats compared to Premier League's best goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois, Joe Hart, David de Gea, Hugo Lloris and Fraser Forster

Simon Mignolet stats compared to Premier League’s best goalkeepers (Stats via Opta)

Mignolet has kept an impressive 11 clean sheets so far this season, a number only bettered by Southampton’s Fraser Forster.

Forster has been in fine form throughout the season as he and his Saints teammates have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League, and Forster is averaging almost three saves per every goal conceded – the best record in the top flight.

Embed from Getty Images

Mignolet is averaging just 1.9 saves per goal, which is the same number as Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris, but less than David De Gea, Joe Hart and Thibaut Courtois.

Lloris is averaging more than three saves per game, more than any of the other five ‘keepers looked at above, and has also made more saves inside the penalty area with 67 this season.

So although his performances of late have been mighty impressive, Liverpool’s Mignolet is not statistically the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

He will go up against David De Gea on Sunday as two of the league’s top stoppers do battle at Anfield with both looking to keep another clean sheet in the race for Champions League football.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Stoke City vs Chelsea

The final Premier League game before Christmas will see Chelsea visit the Britannia Stadium as Stoke look to extend their unbeaten run to three on Monday night.

The Potters’ longest unbeaten run in the Premier League this season stands at two so they have had a somewhat inconsistent campaign so far. But they seemed to turn the corner when the held off Arsenal earlier this month to win 3-2.

Embed from Getty Images

The recent form of ex-Barcelona youngster Bojan has been the catalyst for their new attacking style of play as he picks up pockets of space and he ran riot in the first half against Arsenal a fortnight ago. He will need to be as effective against the Blues for Stoke to stand a chance.

Mark Hughes will have to be cautious against the league leaders however, because Jose Mourinho has a full strength squad to choose from with Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas returning from suspension.

Embed from Getty Images

Chelsea will be looking to regain their three point lead in the Premier League title race as Manchester City went level on points on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.

And with the return of Fabregas, Spanish international striker Diego Costa will have his supply line back in full flow.

Both sides are likely to concede in this one as Chelsea have only kept one clean sheet away from home this term and Stoke haven’t kept one at all since September.

Chelsea have only failed to score on one occasion this season but the Britannia is well known for being a tough place to succeed for visiting teams and the Blues have only won one of their last four games at Stoke.

Embed from Getty Images

This is set up to be entertaining encounter and we expect to see goals in what should be an early Christmas gift for neutrals.

Score Prediction: Stoke City 1-3 Chelsea

Key Player: Eden Hazard – The Chelsea winger’s quick feet would cause any defence problems and Stoke right-back Phil Bardsley will have a hard task keeping him quiet on Monday.

Should Petr Cech seek a move away from Chelsea?

The ever-professional Petr Cech featured in Chelsea’s 3-1 League Cup victory away at Derby County last night but that is only his fifth appearance of the season.

His first team chances have been limited by the impressive, young Thibaut Courtois, who has adapted to life at Chelsea exceptionally well.

Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, had to make a difficult decision to drop the Czech Republic legend for Courtois as he risked losing him on a permanent basis after successful long-term loan spell at Atletico Madrid.

Cech has a decision to make himself on whether or not to call time on his 11-year Chelsea career.

Petr Cech has a number of personal accolades and has written himself into Chelsea folklore, with penalty saves in the FA Cup final and Champions League final (in the game and the shootout).

Embed from Getty Images

He’s now in a similar position to Carlo Cudicini, the man who was a fan favourite at the club but was replaced by a young Cech in 2004.

Cech can take a lot from Cudicini’s decision to wait another three years of infrequent appearances to depart from the club, as he wanted to remain part of a history-making squad.

Cech’s Chelsea honours:

  • Premier League: 2004/05 – 2005/06 – 2009/10
  • FA Cup: 2007 – 2009 – 2010 – 2012
  • League Cup: 2005 – 2007
  • Champions League: Runner-up 2008 – Winner 2012
  • Europa League: Winner 2013
  • Chelsea’s all-time clean sheet holder

The difference between the two is that Cech has won almost everything possible with Chelsea and it could be time to seek a new challenge.

A possible destination would be Real Madrid, who have a decision to make themselves with the future of Iker Casillas still in doubt. The Spanish international has struggled for consistent form and there has been continuous speculation over where he will go next.

Embed from Getty Images

A move to Madrid would see Cech link up with former Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, with whom he enjoyed Chelsea’s first double winning season in 2010.

To this point, Cech hasn’t expressed any desires to depart but as we know, all footballers are frustrated at a lack of playing time, especially when many refer to him as one of the five best goalkeepers worldwide.

Do you think Petr Cech should move on?