Manchester City could really do with a convincing performance and result when they host Chelsea in the Premier League at the Etihad Stadium (12:30pm ET Saturday).
The two-time reigning Premier League champions fell nine points behind leaders Liverpool with a 1-3 defeat at Anfield before the international break. Liverpool were two up within 15 minutes and managed things from there to consign Man City to a third loss of the season.
City lost just four times over the entirety of last season, when their 98-point haul edged Liverpool to the title by a single point. They lost just twice in 2017-18, when they set a new Premier League record of 100 points. With Liverpool setting an incredible pace at the top, and having already dropped 10 points in 12 matches, Man City can’t afford many more slip ups.
A glance at both the top-line and underlying numbers would suggest there is little wrong with the attack of Pep Guardiola’s side. They have averaged just marginally under three goals per match, scoring seven more than any other Premier League team in the process. They have taken more shots of better average quality than any other side in the division.
It is defence where the issues seem to lie. Man City conceded just 23 goals last season and had league-best underlying numbers in that respect. This time around, they have conceded just over a goal per match, an increase that is supported by the underlying numbers. They are still giving up less shots than any other side in the division, but when teams do work their way through, they are creating high-quality chances and finishing them at the expected rate.
The absence through injury of central defender Aymeric Laporte, inconsistency at left-back and adjustments around the fact that summer signing Rodrigo Hernandez has a slightly different skill set to Fernandinho, the player he was signed to replace, have all combined to lessen City’s defensive resolve. It isn’t much of an excuse considering the money spent on the defenders currently available but at least goes someway towards explaining their issues.
Given those problems, Chelsea might just fancy their chances of coming away from the Etihad with the positive result in what should be an entertaining encounter between the two teams whose matches have featured the most goals so far this season.
While it is quite possible that Chelsea’s relatively gung-ho style might leave them open to a City onslaught, they have shown themselves to have enough attacking firepower to go toe-to-toe with the large majority of their opponents to date. Remove their opening day defeat away to Manchester United and only Liverpool have a better record over the subsequent 11 matches.
Indeed, Frank Lampard’s team sit third, a point and a place above Man City, ahead of their trip north this weekend, and their underlying statistics suggest they are worthy of that position. There was a degree of skepticism around them in pre-season due to Lampard’s inexperience and a transfer ban that required them to give chances to some of their younger players, but it has so far proved unfounded. They are now heavily odds-on to finish in the top four and are 40/1 third-favorites with the United States’ betting sites to win the Premier League and those odds will shorten again were they to win this matchup.
Tammy Abraham was one of the highly rated youngsters finally given the opportunity to turn out for the Blues. He has been able to convert his prolific scoring rate on loan at Aston Villa in the Championship last season into a similar output at the top level. He so far has 10 goals in 12 appearances. Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount, both of whom played on loan at Derby under Lampard last season, have also been regulars this season.
Our Preview’s Man City vs Chelsea Predictions & Picks Verdict
Man City are still fundamentally a better team than Chelsea and are worthy of their status as favorites to win Saturday’s match. Man City do, nevertheless, look a tad overrated by the sportsbooks, opening up the possibility of adding a bit of protection for a bet in favor of a Chelsea side who are capable of coming away with a point or more if things fall their way. Our Man City vs Chelsea predictions are:
- Bet on Chelsea +1 goal on the spread @ +130 with Bovada.