Manchester City welcome Chelsea in the Premier League this Saturday evening.
It will see two of the league’s ‘Big Six’, littered with exceptional footballers, go at it hammer and tongs at the Etihad Stadium.
This occasion is also the first meeting between former world-class midfielders Pep Guardiola and Frank Lampard as managers.
Both teams couldn’t be entering this matchday in contrasting form; City were humbled 3-1 last time out at title rivals Liverpool, whilst the Blues are riding on the crest of a wave and are now above Saturday’s opponents in the table.
But what will happen in this mouthwatering showdown?
1. Sergio Aguero to score…
Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around. But for Sergio Aguero, that never looked like happening at Anfield in Manchester City’s last outing just before the international break. The 31-year-old Argentine marksman has now played 785 minutes at Liverpool’s home – for both Atletico Madrid and Man City – and is yet to find the back of the net.
For him and his teammates, it’s a return to home comforts this weekend, in more ways than one. Chelsea, on the road or at home, are one of his favourite Premier League opponents. He’s bagged 10 goals across 13 previous meetings against the west London-based club; no one in the competition’s history is more prolific against them. In fact, eight of those strikes have come in his last six games, including a hat-trick earlier this year.
2. …a goal assisted by Kevin De Bruyne
There’s every chance if Aguero gets on the scoresheet he’ll be assisted by Kevin De Bruyne – the league’s undisputed creative force. No one has created more chances from open play (30) than him and he’s one shy of reaching double figures regarding assists already.
De Bruyne’s present efforts see him running away for this season’s ‘assist king’ tag. His closest challengers – including Andrew Robertson, Dwight McNeil, Emiliano Buendía, David Silva and Harvey Barnes – are currently five behind him.
He’s unlucky not to have already reached that milestone; last time out against Liverpool, the Belgian playmaker created no fewer than three chances, more than anyone on the field. If one of those passes were converted then De Bruyne would have matched Cesc Fabregas (2014/15) and Mesut Ozil (2015/16 ) as the fastest to reach 10 assists in league history.
Nevertheless, he could be third-fastest, which isn’t a compensation but looking at the bigger picture, De Bruyne will be halfway to matching Thierry Henry’s record of most assists in a Premier League season (20), which he set back in 2002/03.
3. Captain America to make history…
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 26, 2019
Life in west London began tentatively for Christian Pulisic, who became Chelsea’s sole new arrival this summer following their Fifa-sanctioned transfer ban. He’d feature in Frank Lampard’s opening four matchday teams, starting across three, before sitting on the bench for three consecutive matches.
The former Borussia Dortmund man would slowly return to the fold and raised some eyebrows when he started against Burnley last month, that decision by Lampard would be swiftly vindicated as Pulisic registered a perfect hat-trick.
It subsequently earned him a start away to Watford (another goal) and when Crystal Palace visited a fortnight ago. Another strike in that match means he stands on the verge of history – never before has an American player scored in four consecutive Premier League games, and we believe he will become the first.
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4. …but Chelsea’s unique streak will come to an end
As the saying goes: form is temporary, class is permanent. Following events of recent weeks, it’s easy to pinpoint which side goes into this mammoth showdown with the wind beneath their sails – Chelsea have won in each of their last five Premier League outings. Consequently, this run sees them sit third in the table on goal difference (with Leicester City second), meaning for the fifth time across the last nine seasons, Man City go into a league game sitting beneath the Blues.
In those previous four meetings, Chelsea would leave unbeaten, securing two draws and two wins, but given the knack of Pep Guardiola’s men to bounce back after a disappointing result, and where both teams are at in terms of development, we can see City edging this contest thus ending this neat, peculiar streak the Blues had going. It won’t be easy as the champions have already shown vulnerability – particularly at the back with key personnel missing – and Lampard’s men have that carefree, no fear attitude which could serve them well in such a high-profile showdown. Ultimately, that may see this end in a high-scoring draw…
5. Expect goals
Lampard was satisfied following his debut as Chelsea manager despite losing 4-0 at Old Trafford; on paper, it was a damning result, but the way his young team applied themselves – and were in truth unlucky – gave the Blues boss encouraging signs and they’ve not looked back. Since that August day, they are on a five-match winning streak on the road.
Across those outings, they’ve bagged 18 goals, 3.6 per game, making them the Premier League’s most prolific side away from home. Interestingly, the side with the most goals at home is Man City, with the champions having already registered 19 goals across six matches. If there’s one player from the visitors we expect to net it’s Tammy Abraham, who has been a revelation this season and it’s been a long time coming.
His previous top-flight stint at Swansea City on loan back in 2017/18 started promisingly before fading away. He’s presently one of five players across Europe’s top five leagues – alongside Robert Lewandowski (16), Ciro Immobile (14), Jamie Vardy (11) and Timo Werner (11) – to have already reached 10 league goals.
If we break down his 10 strikes, you’ll find only three of those have come at Stamford Bridge, which leaves him as the most prolific Premier League goalscorer on the road. His seven goals, two more than Vardy and Raheem Sterling, have come during the Blues’ last four away outings. Speaking of Sterling, he’s only scored twice at home this season, that man Aguero leads the way for City on five and only Mohamed Salah and Vardy – both on six – have outscored him in that regard.