Manchester City and Chelsea’s last meeting at the Etihad Stadium will live long in the memories of both sets of supporters – but for very different reasons.
On February 10th earlier this year, the Citizens tore their visitors asunder and performed a merciless footballing evisceration of Chelsea on live TV, eventually running up a huge six-goal winning margin having scored four times inside the first 25 minutes.
The result drove an irretrievable spike through Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea career prospects, and not even a Europa League triumph could save the Italian’s skin in May.
Fast-forward eight months from that harrowing Etihad annihilation, and the landscape for both clubs has shifted considerably.
Under new coach Frank Lampard, a re-energised Chelsea will arrive in Manchester this weekend believing that they have the tools and talent at their disposal to turn the defending champions over.
With so much at sake in this top of the table tussle, Saturday evening’s game promises to be an enthralling encounter. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important individual duels that could play a key role in deciding the outcome of Man City’s skirmish with Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium.
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Sergio Aguero vs Fikayo Tomori
Argentinean hitman Sergio Aguero tends to score against most teams, however, the City legend’s individual record against Chelsea is simply stunning.
Aguero has scored more Premier League goals against Chelsea than any other player in the competition’s history (10), and the 31-year old rattled the net eight times in his last six appearances against the Blues alone, including a sensational hattrick when City last played Chelsea at the Etihad.
On Saturday, Aguero will pit his experience and goal-getting knowhow against the relatively inexperienced Fikayo Tomori. The 21-year old Blues’ academy product is enjoying a superb campaign for Chelsea, though he will face one of his biggest tests of the season, and his career to date, on Saturday.
Sergio Aguero also features in our anytime goalscorer betting tips for the weekend’s action with a huge 52/1 acca! Make sure to check out the rest of our selections.
Raheem Sterling vs Cesar Azpilicueta
After a controversial week, Raheem Sterling is ready to let his football do the talking again when City meet Chelsea in Saturday’s evening kick-off.
The incredibly productive wide attacker notched seven goals and one assist in 11 Premier League starts for the defending champions this season, and Sterling will be rubbing his hands at the thought of facing Chelsea fullback Cesar Azpilicueta.
The 30-year old Spaniard seems to have lost a yard of pace over the last 12-months, and Azpilicueta could struggle to contain Sterling’s rapid, penetrative movements in and around the Chelsea penalty area this weekend.
Sterling has completed more dibbles per game (2.5) than any of his City teammates this season and his close control and ability to beat his marker in either direction should cause plenty of headaches for Azpilicueta.
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David Silva vs N’Golo Kante
Despite his advancing years, Spanish schemer David Silva remains one of Manchester City’s most prolific creative outlets.
The 33-year old’s assist count for the season (four) is second only to innovative Belgian genius Kevin de Bruyne, though Silva could find many of his usual passing avenues shut down by N’Golo Kante this weekend.
Chelsea’s French midfield destroyer has made more interceptions on average per Premier League game (2.7) than any of his Blues’ counterparts this term, while the 28-year year old also ranks highly for tackles made per 90 minutes (2).
Silva likes to drift into the same spaces that Kante also likes to patrol, and that should allow the French World Cup winner plenty of opportunities to get his foot in.
Fernandinho vs Tammy Abraham
With Pep Guardiola’s bizarre distrust of his central defensive options still apparent, veteran Brazilian anchorman Fernandinho is almost certain to reprise his role at the heart of the Citizens’ rearguard on Saturday.
If the 34-year old is deployed in that deeper than usual role, he will come up in direct opposition to in-form Chelsea hot-shot Tammy Abraham.
Fresh from his first senior international goal for England, the 22-year old marksman should be swollen with confidence this weekend and that should ensure that Abraham’s goal threat remains high.
Abraham has already plundered 10 goals in Premier League appearances this season, and the former Aston Villa loanee ranks second at Chelsea for average shots attempted per game (3.2).
Kevin de Bruyne vs Jorginho
Kevin de Bruyne has been a veritable assists machine for Manchester City this season, topping the club’s individual and the Premier League’s overall charts for goals created for his teammates so far this season (nine).
The Belgian international has also played more key passes per game on average in England’s top flight (3.9) than any other player in the division, and on Saturday, the 28-year old will be doing his best to cut holes in Chelsea’s rear-guard with his laser precision distribution.
Jorginho will be the player tasked with limiting de Bruyne’s influence, though keeping a lid on the Belgian is far easier said than done.
Having been dumped by Chelsea earlier in his career, de Bruyne will be extra motivated to rub his former employer’s noses in it this weekend, and the midfielder is priced generously to add another assist to his tally on Saturday.
Don’t forget – You can also find all of our match previews and betting tips for the weekend’s action on our Premier League predictions page.