2nd February 2014
Having climbed to the Premiership summit for the first time this season, Manchester City will be keen to remain at the top and they can only do so with a win over title rivals Chelsea. The Blues may have suffered a blow to their title hopes as they could only muster a goalless draw with West Ham, but Jose Mourinho’s side have yet to lose to a top 4 side this season.
Even before climbing to the top of the Premier League standings, Manchester City were considered by many to be the main candidates for the coveted trophy and the predictions are proving spot on. Once the team finally hit the ground running, they never looked back and have now won 18 of their last 20 matches in all competitions, while sharing spoils with Southampton and Blackburn Rovers. As a result, the Citizens have ensured their place in Capital One Cup final, Champions League knockout stages and FA Cup fifth round, while also gaining the upper hand in the Premiership title chase. Manuel Pellegrini’s side did brilliantly to avoid any slip-ups during the hectic festive schedule despite the fact they were missing top scorer Sergio Aguero, but the Argentine is now set for a new spell on the sidelines having picked up an injury in the 5-1 triumph over Tottenham. Nevertheless, with Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo both scoring goals for fun, and the likes of Navas and Toure also chipping in, the Citizens remain odds on favourites to see off Chelsea at Etihad and keep the 100% record intact. Manuel Pellegrini should have James Milner back from a groin injury, whereas Aleksandar Kolarov and Alvaro Negredo are set to be recalled.
While Jose Mourinho is adamant he is building a team for the future, it is perfectly clear Chelsea are hoping to win the Premier League title this term if an opportunity arises. Despite not being at their best in the first part of the season, the Blues managed to remain close to the top of the standings, with the team then seriously raising their form at the turn of the year. Home wins over Liverpool and Manchester United further improved the atmosphere in the squad, although Chelsea then suffered a slip-up at the worst possible time, having failed to beat struggling West Ham at home in the build up to the highly anticipated clash at the Etihad. Jose Mourinho can still take comfort from the fact that his side haven’t lost a single game to their title contenders this season, but that record will be put to a serious test by red-hot Manchester City. While the Portuguese manager is likely to concentrate on trying to frustrate the in-form Citizens with a defensive style of play, I seriously doubt Chelsea will fare much better than the other top sides that visited Eastlands this season. While Fernando Torres and Marco van Ginkel continue to miss out, there are no fresh worries for the visitors.
Having proved they can keep their performances at a very high level even without top scorer Sergio Aguero, Manchester City have got to be considered favourites to extend their winning run at home to 12 Premier League fixtures. Chelsea may have done well to frustrate Manchester United and Arsenal on the road, but I don’t see how they are going to cope with City’s firepower.
Verdict: Home win Manchester City (1)
Best Odds: 17/20