Chelsea, who were unbeaten until very recently, will have a job on their hands to avoid a third defeat in four games as they welcome defending champions Manchester City to Stamford Bridge. The hosts haven’t been at their best for a while, with avoidable draws and narrow wins having peppered their November schedule, but this is the first time this season they will go into a game as such comprehensive underdogs.
Manchester City, for their part, have won without being unduly convincing in their last two games. A 3-1 win over Bournemouth could have ended as a draw had the visitors correctly been awarded a penalty with the scores at 2-1, while the midweek victory over Watford ended up being more stressful than it absolutely had to be. Nonetheless, there has been a feeling that if City need to be better, they can and will be – and all the evidence suggests that that is the case.
Chelsea vs Manchester City Prediction: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City
Mauricio Sarri and Pep Guardiola are two of the Premier League’s aesthetes – each of them seems almost visibly pained if their side picks up a win but doesn’t play amazing football in doing so. Therefore, the heroic defensive performance that could win a point for Chelsea will probably not be deployed here. The problem for the Blues is that while the visitors have numerous players who can produce a winning performance in a match like this, they themselves have Eden Hazard and not too much else. Chelsea may be forced to chase this game, and that’s when it could get bad for Sarri’s men.
Our recommended tip: Over 3.5 goals
Although Chelsea still lack a reliable striker at this level, they are the Premier League’s third-highest scorers, with a number of players who can chip in. Winger Hazard leads their scoring charts, but Alvaro Morata, Pedro, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek can all grab crucial goals. We don’t need to say much about City’s attacking options; they’re terrifying, obviously, and it’s a measure of how much we expect champagne football from them that a 2-1 away win is seen as a sign of a lull in form. Expect goals here: NetBet are offering 6/4 (2.50) on there being at least four, and there could be more than that.
The most recent meeting between these sides came at Wembley in the Community Shield, a game won 2-0 by City. The most recent meeting that wasn’t a glorified pre-season friendly came in Manchester back in March. On the day, a slightly under-strength home side picked up the three points with a 1-0 win through Bernardo’s strike at the beginning of the second half.
The same team won by the same score at Stamford Bridge in September 2017, former Chelsea midfielder Kevin de Bruyne snatching the winner on 67 minutes. The last time the Blues won an encounter between these sides came in London in April of last year, with two Hazard goals either side of a consolation from Sergio Aguero.
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Players to watch: Pedro & Bernardo Silva
There aren’t many players who can play for Barcelona, Chelsea and Spain and still be considered to have flown under the radar for most of their careers. Pedro, however, has managed just that – always overshadowed by a teammate bigger name, he’s always retained the ability to score crucial goals, and has notched five this season while only starting half of his team’s games. He may not be a Messi or an Hazard, but when he’s in the team, it always plays better.
The absence through injury of Kevin de Bruyne – felt to be one of the few things that could stop City winning the title by a cavernous margin – has made Bernardo Silva a vitally important player in the City squad. The young Portuguese midfielder has grabbed his chance with both hands and been one of the real success stories of this season. There is some question over whether he’d get a start if City had their entire squad available – but if he keeps developing at this rate, he’ll be impossible to drop.