Manchester City v Chelsea Sunday 16:00, Sky Sports Main Event. Match Odds: Man City1.60, Chelsea 4.80, The Draw 3.60.
Clash of the titans
It's champions-elect against defending champions, and a clash between two managers who have had a huge impact upon English football since joining at the start of last season. Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 system helped Chelsea clinch Premier League glory last season, but now Pep Guardiola's brand of attacking, adventurous football looks set to land Manchester City the title this time around.
At the start of the season we earmarked this game as potentially crucial in the title race - but City are way out ahead, while Chelsea are now battling for a Champions League place. Two points behind Tottenham coming into the weekend, they've lost three of their last four, and the odds suggest they're up against it at the Etihad too.
Conte's side actually played quite well in a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford last weekend, and the Italian may elect to name a largely unchanged side, especially with the rare luxury of a free midweek both before and after this clash.
Defensively, Andreas Christensen is the only player who may fear for his place, having arguably been culpable for Chelsea's three concessions in the two games against Chelsea and Manchester United. Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta should play in the wider centre-back roles, with Gary Cahill unsuited to a test against this mobile Manchester City side.
In midfield this probably isn't a game for Cesc Fabregas in a deep position, because Conte will want complete discipline against Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva. N'Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater should continue from last week. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso remain first-choices out wide.
Then comes Conte's decision in the final third. Willian scored against both Barcelona and Manchester United and is in outstanding form, while Eden Hazard is an obvious starter. But Alvaro Morata looks badly out of sorts, and Conte has often dropped him in order to play Hazard as the main centre-forward.
That seems more likely this weekend, with either Pedro Rodriguez coming into the side to play wide-left, or Fabregas used as a third central midfielder. Conte has largely moved away from the 3-5-1-1 in order to play a front three, however, so Pedro may start against Guardiola, the man who brought him through at Barcelona.
Guardiola himself might shuffle his pack more, after City had a long journey back from Arsenal after Thursday evening's 3-0 win. He'll also have an eye on City's midweek Champions League game against Basel, although City are 4-0 up from the first leg, and effectively already through.
Guardiola could change his centre-back pairing - it's tough to find an obvious first-choice pairing from Vincent Kompany, John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and Aymeric Laporte at the moment, especially with Kompany looking good. He also has problems in midfield, where Fernandinho is out, so Ilkay Gundogan will probably play the holding role.
Bernardo Silva should be given a runout hereafter his fine goal on Thursday, on the right flank is Raheem Sterling isn't fit, but in midfield if he is. Sergio Aguero is likely to play upfront, although Gabriel Jesus is supposedly nearing full fitness. Leroy Sane might be a big threat here, using his speed high up the pitch on the outside of Azpilicueta. He's extremely effective at getting on the end of Kevin De Bruyne's excellent diagonal passes.
In truth, I'm struggling to justify backing either side here. Chelsea have played well without picking up results recently, while from City's perspective, they simply don't need to win and it feels like a relatively low-key draw would go down pretty well with Guardiola.
This is an exciting match on paper, but on the pitch I'm expecting something relatively slow. I'll back under 2.5 goals at2.00.
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
The atmosphere around the Etihad couldn’t be any better, Manchester City have beaten Arsenal comprehensively twice and opened up a 16 point gap at the top of the Premier League. The big games keep coming though but in their current form it's hard to see them not taking another three points against current fifth place Chelsea.
Chelsea lost fourth place last time out with defeat at the hands of Manchester’s other club United, after taking the lead in that game and they could be even further away from a Champions League slot if results go against them on Saturday. They will be desperate to get something from this game and motivation shouldn’t be an issue facing the champions elect and knowing their Champions League qualification is a priority.
Antonio Conte’s side though have now lost three of their last four in the league, so the wheels are starting to come off at the wrong time for them and it’s hard to see them stopping City this time around, despite winning 3-1 on their last trip to the ground.
City are priced around 1.66 in the Match Odds and while that’s a little lower than I had them (1.75) it’s not a price I would be comfortable laying them at. Chelsea look about a point too high at 6.00 to me and therefore represent approx 3.12% of value.
The goals markets also look to be over backed also, Over 2.5 Goals is looking like being about 1.75, I would be looking for a number nearer 1.90 but again you can see why overs is popular when City have scored at least twice in their last 13 home matches and all 13 games have been winners for the over 2.5 goals punters.
Betfair’s relatively new Goal Lines market is going to be the play for me as even three goals produces a half win by backing under 2.75 goals at anything better than 2.00. I had this at about 1.85 a 54% chance so backing at evens (50% chance) this represents approx 4% of value.
Recommended Bet: Back Under 2.75 goals but don’t take less than 2.00.