In form Manchester City will put their title credentials on the line when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Roberto Mancini’s unbeaten side have dropped just four points in their opening 14 games of the season and with 48 goals in the “for” column are fast becoming the most feared team in Britain having already established themselves as title favourites.
They face a Chelsea side, which of course have been there and done it, rising from their own obscurity to become the Champions of England. The Chelsea blueprint no doubt the model that City followed, to be the best you need the best and while both sides have the financial clout to sign any player they wish the Blues from London are currently in a transition phase as they embrace the challenges of integrating a new young manager, younger players and established veterans still clinging to the Jose Mourinho days.
Andres Villas-Boas, a protégé of Mourinho, has been a man under pressure since his arrival with the former Porto man appearing to struggle at time to get his footballing philosophy across to his players not to mention the biggest conundrum of them all, finding out how to get Fernando Torres to score.
Despite the roller coaster ride, it’s not all doom and gloom at Stamford Bridge, AVB has guided his side into the knock out stages of the Champions League and there has been some positives this season, the emergence of Daniel Sturridge and the form of Juan Mata just two seasons why the future is still bright.
Former Valencia star Mata has settled in well to life in England and the 23 year old, used to playing in big occasions having faced both Real Madrid and the seemingly invincible Barcelona during his time in Spain was keen to not be unnerved by City star studded side.
“As a player, you have respect for Barcelona but you never have fear,” he said.
“So, no, we do not have any fear of City, especially because we’re playing at home.
“We do have the ultimate respect for them because they’re the league leaders but fear? Not at all.”
A win for City would move them 13 points ahead of Chelsea however despite that tempting prospect City boss Roberto Mancini was not getting carried away, the former Inter Milan boss pointing to Chelsea’s own demise last year as proof that titles aren’t won in December. “Last year Chelsea had a big lead over (Manchester) United but in the end United won the title by seven or eight points plus.
“The Barclays Premier League is very difficult and in these two months, all the teams that play every three days will find it difficult.
“I think they can win it. They have 10 points less than us but we play two times against them and there are 24 games until the end of the season.”
Chelsea will be without the suspended David Luiz who picked up 5th yellow card of the season last weekend against Newcastle and sits this one out.
That means Branislav Ivanovic who had recently returned to the side in place of Jose Boswinga at right back will move into the middle alongside John Terry, with the fit again Boswinga slotting right back in.
Josh McEachran is back in training after an ankle knock saw him miss the win over Valencia while long term absentee Michael Essien is not expected to return from knee surgery early next year.
Manchester City are missing some defenders of their own with Micah Richards, who missed the midweek win over Bayern Munich, still out with a calf strain. The fit again Pablo Zabaleta should come in for Richard while over on the other side, left-back Aleksandar Kolarov is still out with a groin injury meaning an extended run for Gael Clinchy.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Romeu, Ramires, Lampard, McEachran, Mata, Malouda, Meireles, Torres, Drogba, Kalou, Sturridge, Lukaku, Turnbull.
Manchester City (from): Hart, Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Kompany, Lescott, Savic, K Toure, Clichy, Johnson, Milner, Y Toure, De Jong, Barry, Hargreaves, Nasri, Silva, Dzeko, Balotelli, Aguero.