Manchester City will take on Chelsea in the feature clash of the English Premier League this week as both champions look to get their seasons back on track.
That statement might sound bizarre given the fact that the two clubs sit second and third on the premiership table, respectively, but given all that's taken place with both teams this year, "getting back on track" is still a completely right and valid statement.
The Citizens entered the season as the defending champions of the English competition with a bright future ahead of them in the UEFA Champions League. Now, they come into this one out of the European competition and 15 points behind rivals and league leaders Manchester United in the title race.
Chelsea, on the other hand, came into this year as the FA Cup champions and European champions with their success in the Champions League last year.
They've experienced nothing short of a disastrous year also, with Roberto Di Matteo fired, Rafa Benitez appointed as a replacement nobody wanted, eliminated from the Champions League group stage and struggling in the Europa League. Plus, they're in a real fight just to finish in the top four domestically—let alone compete for the title—making this definitely a year to forget from the West London club.
Yet in spite of all of that, both teams sit inside the top three of the competition and more than capable of playing world-class football, which we should see this week.
This fixture might not have title aspirations or league implications on the line as much as it should have, but that certainly won't take away from the quality in this one. Both are very strong teams who, at their best, can compete with any top team around the globe.
So who'll walk away with the three points in hand from this one? Read on for a full preview, including all the necessary details and viewing information.
Date: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Start time: 8:30 a.m. ET (1:30 p.m. local time)
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Live Stream and TV Info
TalkSport Radio, Fox Soccer Channel, SiriusXM FC and FOX Deportes will all provide coverage of this match throughout the Untied States.
Sky Sports 1 Ireland, Sky Sports 3D, Sky Go and Sky Sports 1/HD will do the same throughout the United Kingdom (per Live Soccer TV).
Recent Form and Results
As mentioned before, neither side boasts the current form or seasonal results that they would have liked to have next to their name at the moment.
Manchester City are winless through their last three Premier League matches (essentially handing the league title to rivals United) but continue to be a very strong team to break down at home this year. Their only loss at the Etihad Stadium so far this season came against United back in December—making them still a very tough opponent in this one.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have only won three of their past seven league matches and are winless in their past two road appearances—dropping leads to both Reading and Newcastle United. They'll be looking to continue their strong form here, which has seen them pick up just as many wins away from home as they have at Stamford Bridge this season.
The two teams played to a scoreless draw in what was Rafa Benitez's first game in charge of the Blues—a result that he would no doubt love again here.
However, with Chelsea keeping just one clean sheet from their last eight matches, that seems unlikely. What seems more likely is goals, given the fact that City's last two matches have averaged four goals per game, whilst Chelsea's average five goals per game.
Key Number to Consider
3: Manchester City will be looking to avoid their fourth straight Premier League game without a win here—something they haven't had happen in over three years. The last time the Citizens went four games without a win was back in September 2009, before Roberto Mancini was even manager.
11: Manchester City have recorded 11 clean sheets in the English Premier League this season, the most out of any team in the league. They've also conceded the fewest goals for the year—averaging just 0.85 goals against when playing at home this season.
0: Chelsea haven't won successive league games at all in 2013—something they'll be looking to do with a win this week against Manchester City.
Having not played since last weekend, Manchester City will no doubt have had plenty of time to prepare for this fixture against Chelsea but also receive the appropriate anger from Roberto Mancini for their last three performances in the Premier League.
City know that if they stand any hope to somehow win the title back from Manchester United, they can ill afford to drop any points for the rest of the year. And that starts with this match, against a Chelsea team that has looked exposed at times throughout their time under Benitez.
The Blues had to unwillingly tap into their reserves against Sparta Prague on Thursday in the Europa League, and it will be interesting to see how that affects them here, especially given the fact that City have had all week off to deal with injuries and prepare for this match.
In an attacking shootout, you'd favor City over Chelsea any day of the week—especially given that they have more to play for and are playing at home.
That's not to rule out the West London club in this one; it's simply an accurate assessment of the Blues' inconsistencies in attack throughout the year.
I think we might just see the Manchester City of 2012 come to the fore in this one, with a strong performance to show that they are not done with this year. Chelsea will be tough defensively, but with a hard fixture during the week and no consistency from their team since Benitez's appointment, it's hard to see them holding out City at the Etihad Stadium here.
I'd say an early goal gives City the advantage here—something they'll double just after halftime. A late goal gives the Citizens a crushing defeat of the Blues on the scoreboard but never truly captures just how close this one was for both teams.
The pressure is eased off Mancini for a week whilst Benitez remains firmly in the hot seat—a position that he's no doubt getting very used to by now.
Prediction: Manchester City 3, Chelsea 0
Too bold? What do you think will happen in Manchester City vs. Chelsea?
Comment below or hit me up on Twitter: Follow @dantalintyre
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!