Weblog: The football punter
Hot Man City can make light work of Chelsea
BT Sport 1, 5.30pm Saturday
The Manchester City bandwagon keeps on rolling towards the Premier League title and it’s hard to see misfiring Chelsea putting the brakes on the champions at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea have been tough to be beat on their own patch in recent seasons and they haven’t lost at the Bridge in eight months.
But during that time they haven’t played City, who were
1-0 winners when they last met on this stage in September 2017.
City have followed that triumph by beating Chelsea at two more venues – 1-0 at the Etihad in the league and 2-0 at Wembley in the Community Shield – and they are hard to oppose.
Pep Guardiola's side seem to be able to beat everyone regardless of status. Incredibly, since the start of last season, they have earned 34 points out of a possible 42 against the established big six - Chelsea have managed only half as many.
City have had an extra 24 hours to prepare for this match, are in better form, their confidence is through the roof, and even money seems a perfectly acceptable price to take given they have zoomed ten points clear of the Londoners this week.
And it has been a telling week. On Tuesday City strolled into a 2-0 lead at Watford before nervously getting over the line. For once they hadn’t battered their opponents into submission and nearly paid for that when Abdoulaye Doucoure pulled a goal back.
A day later Chelsea were also looking serene, this time at Molineux against Wolves, where they went 1-0 up and were heading for a welcome win. But due to lost concentration and missed chances, the next thing Maurizio Sarri knew his side were 2-1 down, leaving him to lament (again) that his transformation of Chelsea is definitely a work in progress.
The Blues have had three straight clean sheets at home, though they weren’t particularly impressive in the 0-0 draw against Everton or
2-0 win versus Fulham. Issues surround the competence of David Luiz and Marcos Alonso defensively, while the goals have dried up for Eden Hazard, who hasn’t found the net in the last seven in all competitions.
As for the Olivier Giroud-Alvaro Morata conundrum, it doesn’t seem to matter which striker Sarri picks, the upshot will be a let-down.
City have kept a fantastic 13 clean sheets this season (12 in wins) recording victories to nil, tellingly, at Arsenal and Tottenham. Throw in a 4-0 win at West Ham and they have yet to ship a goal in the capital this season.
They are ten points better off than Chelsea and 20 goals superior with a goal difference of plus 38. Gems Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne aren’t fit yet but it doesn’t seem to matter. Aguero wasn’t at the Bridge last season and City still won, while neither man has been available over the past week when the league leaders have chalked up two wins.
Leroy Sane, with six goals in his last eight games, looks well worth considering to score first. He plays off the flank but loves to come inside and run directly towards goal.
L Sane first goalscorer