Manchester City vs. Chelsea: When Super-Rich Clubs Collide
Less than a decade ago, this clash would have barely registered as a blip on the radar of most Premier League fans.
Chelsea were still underachievers who were threatening to make an impact but never really did, while Manchester City had just returned after a few years nose diving down through the divisions.
Fast forward to 2010 and this fixture is one of the biggest attractions in English football. The Premier League's two mega rich super powers go head to head on Saturday, with both clubs chasing title dreams.
So what happened to turn this fixture from part of Match of the Day's key highlights only reel, to the one that will probably kick off Saturday night's show?
Chelsea's wealth has been well documented, with uber rich Roman Abramovich taking the reigns in 2003 and subsequently throwing money in all directions to assemble a team of stars. He has rubbished punditry claims that money can't buy success as Chelsea have claimed three league titles, three FA Cups, and two League Cups in the last seven years. The one trophy that eludes him is the Champions League and he came within a goalpost of adding that to the trophy room in 2008.
Manchester City are essentially Chelsea 2.0 as things stand. They have had two full seasons under Sheikh Mansour's multi-billion pound ownership - although his first season held little impact as he took over at the end of the transfer window, only Robinho was added - and they look on track to follow Chelsea's esteemed path.
Having narrowly missed out on a Champions League spot last year, Roberto Mancini went into the transfer market with numerous blank cheques from his owner and went mad.
The two starting XI's on Saturday will likely include hundreds of millions of pounds worth of superstars, so who exactly are the men to look out for?
In the Sky Blue corner will be the captain Carlos Tevez, who acrimoniously joined City last summer after being cast aside by Manchester United. The hard working front man cost the Eastlands club in the region of £50million and the Argentinian has not disappointed. In his first season he netted 23 times in the league and has established himself as City's main man.
Summer acquisition David Silva will be hoping to make an impact after his £20-odd-million move in the summer and Yaya Toure, reportedly the top earner in England on £200,000 a week following his £24million move is set to cause Chelsea some problems.
Another member of the +£20million club, James Milner, will be hoping to continue his good run of form after his switch from Aston Villa. Many debated whether the youngster deserved to command such a high transfer fee, but he is showing early signs of vindicating Mr Mancini.
Let's not forget Gareth Barry (£12m), Adam Johnson (£8m), and the revitalised Joe Hart, all both of whom have been in scintilating form this term.
Then there's the Dark Blue corner where the original money men will be sending in the troops. Chelsea come laden with talent and that has been clear this season, even at such an early stage.
Dider Drogba cost Chelsea £24million back in 2004 and has gone on to score 170 goals despite a dodgy start. His fee seems like peanuts now when you look at his achievements. The Ivorian was rested for the Champions League game on Wednesday and will be raring to go in Manchester at the weekend.
Michael Essien is back in flying form and will be in the eleven on Saturday. The combative midfielder joined for the seemingly popular fee of £24million after turning down Manchester United and has proven to be one of Chelsea's best buys.
Although the London side have curbed their spending recently, there is such a plethora of talent that has been embedded over Abramovich's tenure that they really don't need to spend spend spend anymore.
So Saturday can be billed in a number of ways: Wallet vs Wallet; Sheikh vs Oil Baron; Old School vs New School.
However in my humble opinion this could be known as the Changing of the Guard. If money continues to dictate the progress of teams, especially at this level, then Manchester City are on their way to eclipsing Chelsea in the battle of mega rich supremos.
Interestingly, Roberto Mancini came out on Friday and said that Chelsea were guaranteed to win the league, even at this early stage. At the same time, Carlo Ancelotti told the press that Man City were title rivals. Clearly both managers are trying to put pressure on their opposition by playing down their own chances.
Only time will tell if cash will once again mean prizes, but this could be the season to signal the change and what better way to kick start it than on a Saturday lunchtime in front of your own fans?
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