Chelsea v Manchester City: Hosts can stop the rot

Two Premier League titans go head-to-head on Sunday, and Kevin Hatchard believes Chelsea can pick up at least a point against Manchester City...

Chelsea v Manchester City
Sunday 03 January, 16:30
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Blues' boss a victim of his own success

No-one can deny that Chelsea have been an incredibly successful club in the 21st century, but a boom-and-bust approach to management has been the central strand that has run through their recent history. Jose Mourinho, perhaps the Blues' most iconic manager, was sacked not once but twice. Robert Di Matteo was jettisoned just months after delivering the club's only Champions League success, Carlo Ancelotti did the double in his first campaign but was dismissed at the end of his second, and Maurizio Sarri secured a top-three finish and the Europa League but then jumped to Juventus before he was pushed.

Those fluctuations make it difficult to build a long-term project, and they mean that while high external and internal expectations aren't met, the finger of blame springs towards the manager. Club legend Frank Lampard should be insulated more than most, and he qualified for the Champions League and reached the FA Cup final in his first campaign, but a poor run of form has set tongues wagging.

At the start of December, there was hushed talk of a title push, and Chelsea had secured top spot in their Champions League group. A run of two league wins in six, including an abject 3-1 reverse at Arsenal, has seen that title talk look premature. However, the Blues have only lost four of their 16 league games, and going into this weekend only Liverpool had scored more goals. The addition of goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and defensive behemoth Thiago Silva have tightened Chelsea up in general, and although there seems to be a maddening desperation for Timo Werner and Kai Havertz to adapt to the Premier League with a click of the finger, their track records suggest they'll come good.

Right-back Reece James is struggling with a hamstring injury, but Thiago Silva should return, and the influential and Hakim Ziyech could make his first appearance since the win over Leeds.

COVID outbreak has hit City hard

We know that Manchester City duo Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus will miss the trip to Stamford Bridge after positive COVID-19 tests, and City have confirmed that three further players have been ruled out for the same reason. The virus caused the postponement of City's trip to Everton, and has doubtless disrupted their preparations. COVID-19 is such a huge factor in our everyday lives, and it's easy to slip into putting in on the same level as a hamstring tear or an ankle twist, but this is a deadly disease, so there's a psychological toll involved too.

There's no doubt that City are on the charge after a slow start to the season. They have won four and drawn two of their last six PL games, they stormed into the semi-finals of the League Cup and they comfortably won their Champions League group. However, there's no getting away from the fact that they struggle on the road against the big hitters. This term they have drawn 0-0 at Manchester United and lost 2-0 at Tottenham. Last season, in their five away games against other members of the top six, they lost four and had just the one victory at Leicester City. They scored just three goals and conceded nine. On their last two visits to Stamford Bridge, they have lost 2-1 and 2-0.

Chelsea can avoid defeat

City's record away to elite sides has been dismal for well over a year now, and although they have an excellent squad, losing five players to COVID-19 is bound to affect them. Chelsea have lost just one of their last 14 home games in the league, and for the talk of their fragility, they have kept seven clean sheets in that run.

I'll use the Sportsbook's Same Game Multi (see offer below) to back Chelsea/Draw Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals at combined odds of 2.24. Just three of City's last 15 PL away games have featured more than three goals.

If you want to avoid getting involved in the Match Odds and want to stick to goals, Under 2.5 Goals is worth a look at 2.14. That bet has landed in City's last six top-flight away games, and in five of their last seven trips to top-six sides.

Giroud worth backing if Lampard picks him

My attention was drawn to an extraordinary statistic this week. Purely in terms of Expected Goals per 90 minutes, Olivier Giroud is the most efficient player in the Premier League based on 2020's stats, and he is only just ahead of Chelsea team-mate Tammy Abraham. Giroud had an xG per 90 figure of 0.71 in 2020, and he is currently on stellar form. He netted all four goals in a 4-0 win at Sevilla in the Champions League, he has scored in five of his last eight appearances in all competitions, and he has found the net in his last two PL appearances at Stamford Bridge.

If Giroud starts, he is worth backing in the To Score market at a hefty 2/1 on the Sportsbook.

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