MX23RW : Friday, July 23 22:10:37| >> :120:11665:11665:
Feb 10, 2019 at 4pm UK at Etihad Stadium
Attendance: 54,452
Man CityManchester City
Sterling (4', 80'), Aguero (13', 19', 56' pen.), Gundogan (25')
FT(HT: 4-0)

Preview: Manchester City vs. Chelsea - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Premier League showdown between champions Manchester City and Chelsea, including predictions, team news and head-to-head records.

Exactly two weeks before Manchester City and Chelsea face off in the final of the EFL Cup, the two clubs will also do battle in a crucial Premier League clash at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The champions have clawed their way back into the Premier League title fight and go into the weekend top of the table, while Chelsea are bidding to stay ahead of Manchester United and Arsenal in the top-four race.

Man City

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola watches on against Everton in the Premier League on February 6, 2019© Reuters

December 8 was the last time Manchester City went into a gameweek as Premier League leaders, and Chelsea were the opponents on that occasion too.

The Londoners ran out 2-0 winners at Stamford Bridge to leave Man City playing catch-up to Liverpool over the past two months, and subsequent defeats to Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Newcastle United in the meantime at one stage appeared to have seriously derailed their title defence.

What was once a seven-point gap has now been eliminated, though, with Pep Guardiola's side having returned to the top of the table courtesy of their 2-0 win over Liverpool's local rivals Everton on Wednesday night.

Despite leading the way, Man City still find themselves in a position of catch-up, though, with only goal difference placing them above Jurgen Klopp's side and Liverpool boasting the distinct advantage of a game in hand - to be played while Man City are facing Chelsea once again in the EFL Cup final.

Guardiola has also described this weekend's showdown as a final, which is indicative of just how costly dropped points can be in one of the most high-quality title races English football has ever seen.

Liverpool have shown signs of faltering in recent weeks with back-to-back draws, and City cannot afford to do the same in what is their last Premier League outing until February 27, with matches in the FA Cup, Champions League and EFL Cup to play before they are next in top-flight action.

The champions will be wary of Chelsea having suffered their first defeat of the season at their hands in December, but they also have home advantage behind them this time around and boast the best home record in the division this term with 12 wins from 13 games.

Indeed, in all competitions Man City have won 15 of their last 16 outings at the Etihad, the last five of which have seen them score a whopping 27 goals.

Unsurprisingly, Guardiola's side are the leading home scorers in the Premier League alone, and Sunday could see them become the first club to score multiple goals in 15 consecutive top-flight home games since Tottenham Hotspur in December 1965.

Spurs, incidentally, cannot be counted out of the title race just yet either, but for now it is Man City and Liverpool who are neck and neck - although that could change before the champions kick off with Liverpool in action at home to Bournemouth on Saturday.

Any slip-up for the Reds in that match would well and truly hand City the initiative ahead of Chelsea's visit, but Guardiola will not need telling that his side must approach every match from hereon in as a must-win one if they are to successfully defend their Premier League title.

Recent Premier League form: WWWLWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLWW


Unimpressed Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri on January 30, 2019© Reuters

A trip to the Etihad Stadium is the last thing a manager under some pressure needs, but Maurizio Sarri has already masterminded one win over City this season and he will be aiming to repeat the feat on Sunday.

Just what to expect from Sarri's somewhat schizophrenic side is anyone's guess, having thrashed Huddersfield Town 5-0 last time out, just days after being on the end of a 4-0 drubbing by Bournemouth.

City will, of course, provide a sterner test than the surely-doomed Terriers, but it was nonetheless a perfect response to Sarri's worst result as Chelsea boss so far.

The link-up between Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain - both of whom helped themselves to two goals - will raise optimism that Chelsea now finally have a number nine good enough to allow them to aim higher than fourth, in addition to letting Hazard revert to his favoured and most dangerous position.

Whether Hazard - or indeed loanee Higuain - stays around beyond the end of the season remains to be seen, but for the final months of the campaign the Blues must content themselves with aiming to secure fourth considering that they trail the leaders by 12 points and are seven behind third-placed Spurs.

Chelsea eyes are very much looking over their shoulders, then, and they could be outside the Champions League places by the time this match kicks off with Manchester United - only two points behind - taking on relegation-threatened Fulham on Saturday.

Defeat on Sunday could see Chelsea cede control of a top-four spot, then, and it would make for a disappointing start to a huge run of fixtures taking them through to the end of February, during which time they face United in the FA Cup fifth round, Man City again in the EFL Cup final, Spurs in the Premier League and Malmo in both legs of their Europa League knockout tie.

It could be that Chelsea are out of the running for all trophies and playing catch-up in the top-four race by the beginning of March, and in that scenario the pressure really would start to pile on Sarri's shoulders.

The positive is that only two of those games come on away soil, although that does not help them much for Sunday's trip to the Etihad where they will be looking to avoid a fourth successive defeat on their travels.

Indeed, Chelsea have not even scored an away goal yet in 2019, drawing blanks in all three such outings so far including twice in the Premier League. Should they fail to breach the City defence on Sunday then they would equal their club Premier League record of three successive away games without scoring.

The Blues are also winless in their last six league away games against their top-six rivals stretching back to August 2017, losing each of the last four including both already this season.

There are plenty of hurdles to overcome if Sarri is to steer Chelsea to consecutive league wins for the first time this year, then, but if he is able to motivate his players enough to produce a repeat of their performance in December's reverse fixture then they will stand a chance of pulling off an upset.

Recent Premier League form: WDWLLW
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWLW

Team News

Kevin De Bruyne in action for Manchester City on January 26, 2019© Reuters

Man City are expected to welcome Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling back into their starting lineup after both were rested against Everton in midweek.

There are unlikely to be wholesale changes despite Guardiola's desire to keep his squad fresh, though, and Aymeric Laporte is again likely to feature at left-back even if Benjamin Mendy recovers from his knee problem in time to be in contention.

Bernardo Silva played the full 90 minutes against both Arsenal and Everton and therefore could be rested for this match, which would see Leroy Sane retain his place in the team.

Sergio Aguero will lead the line, meanwhile, having scored 22 goals in his last 15 Premier League home starts and 12 in 17 appearances against Chelsea in the past.

Chelsea, meanwhile, have a clean bill of health following the 5-0 win over Huddersfield and are expected to welcome Antonio Rudiger back into the team in place of Andreas Christensen.

That is likely to be Sarri's only change, though, with the likes of Ross Barkley and Willian having seemingly done enough against the Terriers to earn another start despite competition from the likes of Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Pedro and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Higuain will spearhead the attack once again, having now scored 38 goals in 37 league appearances under Sarri.

Man City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Willian, Higuain, Hazard

Head To Head

No team has beaten Man City more often than Chelsea in the Premier League era, with the London outfit recording 25 victories over Sunday's hosts.

Chelsea are also the only club to win more than two top-flight fixtures against a team managed by Guardiola, having chalked up their third with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December.

Man City had won three in a row before that, though, including a 2-0 victory of their own when these two sides met in the 2018-19 curtain-raiser at Wembley as the league champions beat the FA Cup holders to the Community Shield.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Man City 2-1 Chelsea

Chelsea got the formula right to beat Man City in the reverse fixture and have the tools to test them again this weekend, but we cannot ignore their poor form on the road. Man City know that they cannot afford any more slip-ups in the title race and we're backing them to pick up a huge three points on Sunday.

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Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in their EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Tottenham Hotspur on January 24, 2019
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