A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s trip away to Manchester City.
The return of the Premier League this weekend includes a clash between the last 2 teams to be crowned English Champions. The Saturday teatime kick off sees Frank Lampard take his Chelsea team up to The Etihad Stadium to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
It was the same tie last season when a very limp Chelsea team under the stewardship of Maurizio Sarri were embarrassingly thumped 6-0 by a rampant home side.
Despite their biggest Premier League defeat still relatively fresh in the memories, most Chelsea supporters will be travelling with a skip in their step and an unexpected amount of optimism this time round.
This season started with minimal expectations thanks to a combination of losing their best player, a transfer embargo and a relatively inexperienced manager at the helm.
However, under the former playing legend, The Blues have been a revelation. Youth products have flourished, the style of football has been exciting and the results are coming.
So much so that most would have been surprised at the start of this campaign that this match would be between two teams both in the top 4. But it is even more startling that it is Chelsea who go into this match above their hosts.
The Blues are on the back of only 1 loss in their previous 11 matches and are aiming to win their 8th consecutive away match in all competitions, which would be a club record.
The Citizens have spent the previous 2 seasons breaking multiple records. However their 3 losses in the opening 12 league matches is unprecedented for the current champions.
They may be suffering due to injuries, but The Blues have also had a number of key players unavailable so far this season. And it would be the expensively assembled City squad that most would have expected to cope better, not the other way round.
And that is surely the key indication of the tremendous job that Frank and his coaching staff are doing. A team that on paper looks slightly weaker than the one that traveled to The Etihad last season will arrive with more optimism and belief.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is unlikely to take part due to a hamstring injury, but Christian Pulisic is available and Jorginho can return after his well timed 1 match suspension.
Frank’s biggest selection issues will be whether to start with the not necessarily fully match fit N’Golo Kante or Mason Mount in midfield, and who to opt for as his 2 full backs.
Reece James was so impressive in preventing Wilfried Zaha to make a positive impact last time out, but the manager will probably prefer to have Cesar Azpilicueta’s experience on the pitch for such a tough match. The decision will be on which side will the club captain play – instead of James on the right, or Emerson Palmieri on the left.
Manchester City are definitely without the suspended Bernardo Silva, but goalkeeper Ederson should return following a muscular problem. But it is in defence where they are struggling for cover.
And that leads to what could be a major factor in this match. Tammy Abraham and Sergio Aguero are both in fine goal scoring form. Both sides are creating chances and at times look a little suspect at the back.
This match could well turn on who has their best scoring boots on out of the 2 strikers. Aguero has regularly scored for fun against The Blues, no player has netted more in the Premier League against them, while Tammy is the new kid on the block.
A match which is likely to be full of flowing, attacking play with plenty of incidents all over the pitch could well hinge on simply who out scores who.
And surely all football fans cannot wait to see how it plays out.
Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue