Who: Manchester City vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Week 24
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
When: Monday, February 3, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Manchester
Time: 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra (US); Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Sports 3D, Sky Go, BBC One, NOW TV (UK)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC, TalkSport, BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Mike Dean
3-Way Odds: Manchester City -125, Chelsea +330, Draw +275
Total: Over 2½ -130, Under 2½ +110
Decimal Odds: Manchester City 1.80, Chelsea 4.30, Draw 3.75
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.77, Under 2½ 2.10
Fractional Odds: Manchester City 4/5, Chelsea 33/10, Draw 11/4
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 10/13, Under 2½ 11/10
Alternate Odds: Manchester City PK -300, Chelsea PK +240
Manchester City -1 +150, Chelsea +1 -180
Over 3½ +180, Under 3½ -220
Odds to Win Premier League: Manchester City 8/11, Chelsea 3/1
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Manchester City -120, Chelsea +330, Draw +260
Total: Over 2½ -135, Under 2½ +115
Source: LVH SuperBook (Las Vegas, Nevada USA)
With a win against Manchester City on Monday at the Etihad Stadium, Chelsea can draw level with the new English Premier League leaders, but doing so will be quite the undertaking against a torrid Sky Blues squad which seldom, if ever, loses at home and which has won seven straight and 14 of their last 15 games in all competitions.
In one of the most highly anticipated matches in England’s top flight this season, third-place Chelsea (15-5-3, 50 points) and goalkeeper Petr Cech bring the league’s best defense (20 goals allowed) into this showdown against first-place City (17-2-4, 53 points) and the EPL’s top-scoring offense (68 goals).
But the prolific and now high-flying Sky Blues will have to face the Europa League champions without the services of their leading scorer Sergio Aguero (15 goals) who has been ruled out for a month after suffering a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.
Although a pretty big blow for Manuel Pellegrini and City, the home team will still be able to plug in an effective replacement at striker with Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo or Stevan Jovetic.
And although Chelsea went undefeated in January—allowing just one goal in the month—Jose Mourinho's side hasn’t won at the Etihad since 2008; their 2-1 win over the Sky Blues at Stamford Bridge on Oct. 27 was the Blues first victory over City since 2011.
Chelsea have their own striker injury with Fernando Torres (knee) still sidelined, but with just four goals in six months of league play so far, this seems much less of a blow than losing Aguero who has been brilliant for the Sky Blues. For the London Blues, Samuel Eto’o (6 goals) will most likely get the start, although Demba Ba is also available.
Despite having such a stout defense, captain John Terry and Chelsea will really be up against it here as the Citizens are loaded with talented players from around the globe such as Yaya Toure (12 goals), the aforementioned Negredo (9) and Dzeko (7), Pablo Zabaleta (5), Samir Nasri (4) and Jesus Navas (4 goals, 6 assists), among others.
With a loaded roster that also includes the likes of David Silva (7 assists), Vincent Kompany, Aleksander Kolarov and Fernandinho, and this club finally starting to gel as a unit, it’s no surprise City entered this weekend of play atop the EPL table.
With a win over Chelsea on Monday, they may never relinquish first place from that point on. We’ll see.
To upset the hosts and goalkeeper Joe Hart in this one, in my opinion the visitors will have to do absolutely everything right and get all the breaks. But if anyone is finally going to defeat robotic City at home (11-0-0), it will probably be a Mourinho-led band of brothers who will head into Mancunia on a cold winter’s evening and steal a 1-0 win or something.
The big question is: Will this be that year?
One reason backing red-hot City at more-than-fair price of -120 (LVH SuperBook) seems wise here is Blues manager Mourinho’s almost over-the-top respect for the Citizens, proof he knows a tiger when he sees one.
And whether or not it’s just a head game or tip of the cap, the Special One seems a bit intimidated by this team and, to me, any team with a healthy Yaya Toure on it is a force to be reckoned with—the Ivorian midfielder has been absolutely fabulous again this campaign.
Another reason to lean toward the Sky Blues here is the reality that Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard (8 goals) will have much more pressure on him now trying to run the show offensively with former running mate Juan Mata now plying his football wares for the Noisy Neighbors’ arch enemies, Manchester United.
The Blues did have a near-perfect January (5-1-0, 11-1 goals), but the first month of 2014 ended on Wednesday with a disappointing 0-0 draw to West Ham United in West London in a game in which the home team almost snatched three points in with a dramatic late goal. Almost. Like Al Gore was almost US president.
If Chelsea were a little bit better away from home (5-3-3, 18-11 goals), it may be a little bit easier to mull backing the Blues as the big underdog (+320) or maybe even the draw (+260).
But it seems if one can’t find a way to beat the 18th-place team in the table (West Ham) when one is at the top of one’s game, then trying to become the first team since the Cavemen invented The Wheel to beat this top-form City side at home may require some divine intervention...or quite possibly a little pre-game kiss on the cheek for referee Mike Dean from Blues physio Eva Carneiro.
(Hey. It’s an idea, brother. I don’t see you coming up with some brilliant Master Plan, celery breath. Now go away. You bother me. Go have some bacon and eggs or something. Skedaddle.)
Anyway, for Chelsea to upset the Sky Blues here, guys such as Oscar (6 goals), Frank Lampard (4), Willian, Andre Schurrle (3) and David Luiz and newbies Nemanja Matic and Mohamed Salah will all have to have top-notch performances.
And if the Blues can somehow pull this off, it will be their biggest win of the season and will give them realistic hopes of winning the Premier League.
In the last 10 meetings overall in this series, the Sky Blues are 6-3-1 (15-11 goals) against Chelsea and in this fixture last season, City painted the Blues black with a 2-0 win behind second-half goals from spearhead Toure and now-Juventus striker Carlos Tevez.
And just knowing Pellegrini’s boys have outscored their opponents by a gaudy 42 to 8 margin at the Etihad—and that they truly have one of the best home-field advantages in all of professional sports—I have to side with the home team here in this clash of titans, despite my royal blue blood after suddenly being bit by the benevolent vampire Count Drogba in the fall of 2005.
Maybe Eva can give me a little kiss, too, as this garlic doesn't seem to be working.
After this long-anticipated match with the Sky Blues, next up on Chelsea's schedule is a home league date with Newcastle United (Feb. 8) followed by a midweek game with West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns (Feb. 11), then another duel with mighty City again in Mancunia (Feb. 15) in the fifth round of the FA Cup.
A win in either City game will probably seem like a wonderful thing to Blues fans, despite their recent run.
If you feel so inclined, please leave your predictions and/or starting XIs for the game in the space below. Mahalo and enjoy the game.
PREDICTION: Manchester City 3 Chelsea 1
BETS: Manchester City -120, Manchester City Pick -300, Over 2½ -135
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