23rd February 2013
Three straight setbacks have seen Manchester City’s title hopes go up in smoke, but few more of those and team’s top 4 position could also be in danger. Chelsea narrowly escaped Europa League exit in midweek, and they now hope to get their league campaign back on track as well.
With Roberto Mancini describing himself as the best manager in England and then swearing during a press conference, it is perfectly clear that the Italian is starting to feel the pressure following the dismal run of results. Not even the £50 million spent on new players in the summer could help the Citizens mount a serious title challenge, so no wonder everybody is turning against Roberto Mancini. Oddly enough, club chiefs seem to be completely behind the Italian, but that could change if the disappointing results continue. After the 3-1 defeat at St Mary’s, City restored some of the lost confidence thanks to a 4-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup, but this will be a whole different ball game. The reigning Premier League champions have been pretty convincing at Etihad this season, and solid home form can give them confidence ahead of the Chelsea clash. Vincent Kompany’s injury, on the other hand, is proving to be a problem as the captain looks set to miss a fifth straight game. Gareth Barry is doubtful with an ankle problem.
Chelsea have long ago dropped out of the Premiership title race, but their top 4 place is also in danger after winning just two of their last five league fixtures. These past few weeks have been pretty busy for the Blues, as they only had one free midweek since the turn of the year, so no wonder Rafa Benitez has been deploying a rotation policy to try and cope with the hectic schedule. Chelsea have shown some improvement since the 3-2 defeat at St James Park, winning three straight games in all competitions, but they experienced some problems in the Europa League return leg against Sparta Prague on Thursday. The match looked to be heading for extra time as David Lafata’s goal neutralized Chelsea’s one-goal advantage from the first match, but Eden Hazard scored deep into injury time to send his side through to the last 16 stage. Rafa Benitez is set to make a number of changes to the team that played in midweek, with Ba, Lampard, Cole, Ivanovic, Luiz and Hazard all set to return.
Manchester City are struggling for form at the moment and it is perfectly clear captain Vincent Kompany is sorely missed. Chelsea have been playing some good football and with a number of starters set to return, I believe they can get at least one point from the Etihad.
Verdict: Draw (X)
Best Odds: 27/10