A Chelsea side looking to get back on track following a couple of recent wobbles face the worst possible opponents when they host all-conquering reigning Premier League soccer champions Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (12:30pm ET).
Maurizio Sarri and Pep Guardiola are both coaches with a commitment to possession-based and attacking soccer. They served up a pair of highly entertaining encounters in last season’s Champions League, with City overcoming Sarri’s Napoli 2-1 at home and 4-2 away.
Those matches could just as easily have swung in Napoli’s favour. In the third year of Sarri’s reign, they were a well-oiled machine capable of competing on an even footing with the large majority of opponents. While the Italian has done a good job of getting his ideas across in the first few months at Chelsea, they are not quite yet ready to take on Man City blow for blow.
That much was made evident by the manner in which they were defeated 1-3 away to Tottenham Hotspur a couple of weekends back. Chelsea saw more of the ball but were never really in the game against a Spurs side who were able to prevent them from making progress in attack and who moved forward rapidly and incisively whenever they won possession.
Sarri has always been realistic in saying that his side will not be ready to challenge City and Liverpool at the top of the table this season and recent results have borne that out. After beginning the campaign with five straight victories, their subsequent 10 matches have yielded just four wins alongside four draws and two defeats.
The second of those losses came away to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday. Chelsea took an early lead through Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but their hosts fought back after the break, scoring twice in quick succession either side of the hour mark to claim victory. Sarri afterwards spoke of his concern at his side’s inability to react once Wolves had equalized.
Despite a very solid start to his time in charge at Stamford Bridge, a few cracks are starting to appear. Sarri will be under no illusions as to the scale of the task facing his side on Saturday.
Manchester City ran away with last season’s Premier League soccer title, breaking a number of records as they racked up 100 points and 106 goals en route to finishing a full 19 points clear of Manchester United in second. It was a dominant campaign, but the scary thing for the rest of the league is that they look even better this time around.
Guardiola’s side extended their unbeaten start to the season to 15 matches with a 2-1 win away to Watford on Tuesday. Goals either side of half-time from Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez saw them to victory despite a spirited performance from their hosts, who created some solid opportunities and were able to pull a goal back late on.
Man City’s record now reads 13 wins and two draws, 45 goals scored and just seven conceded. If they could maintain their current rates of scoring, conceding and points accumulation over the full campaign, they would finish with over 100 points, over 110 goals and under 18 conceded. Those stats would be an improvement on what was already a supreme campaign last season.
Mahrez was the only first-team arrival in the summer and so the rest of the improvement has been internal, as some of the players signed last season have settled in and general cohesiveness has increased. A couple of minor stumbles in the Champions League suggest they are not an unbeatable force, but Man City are certainly the class of the Premier League and one of the best teams in Europe.
Liverpool are good enough to push them closer than any other team was able to last time out, but it would take a brave man to bet against City becoming the first side since Manchester United a decade ago to win back-to-back Premier League titles.
It might also be a risk to bet against them continuing their unbeaten start to the league season this weekend. Man City won home and away to Chelsea last season and have triumphed at Stamford Bridge in two of the last three years. Another victory is the most likely outcome on Saturday. So our Chelsea vs Man City predictions are below.
Our Betting Preview’s Chelsea vs Man City Predictions & Picks Verdict
- Bet on “Manchester City to win & over 2.5 goals” @ odds of +125 with Bovada.