When last previewing a Chelsea match, I was confident they would win easily. After all, they were playing the team who were 15th in the league, and who hadn’t won any of their previous seven league matches. It should’ve been a routine victory, right?
The problem was, the match was against Arsenal, and no matter the Gunners’ issues this season, as a member of the established big six they are Kryptonite to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. Since the start of last season, when Lamps took charge, his side have the worst record in the mini-league of the big clubs, with only four wins from their 14 matches.
Chelsea v Manchester City, Sunday January 3: 4.30pm
Sky Sports Main Event
Yet one of their victories came in this fixture last season, as any Liverpool fan on earth will be able to remind you. Fernandinho was sent off for handling on the line, Willian – remember him? – converted the subsequent penalty and the result ensured the Reds were confirmed as champions.
Chelsea haven’t looked close to repeating such heroics in 2020/21. They lost to both Liverpool and Arsenal, with dour goalless draws with Manchester United and Tottenham sandwiched between those defeats.
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Whoever they were scheduled to face in the first match of 2021, the Blues’ form would be a concern regardless. With Chelsea having only won one of their last five league matches, and their points-per-game average below what it was last season, Lampard’s odds in the ‘next manager to leave their post’ market have shrivelled up worse than my plans for 2020.
Not that Manchester City have fared much better in the big games in this campaign. After their customary win over Arsenal, they drew with the champions, lost at Tottenham, and had a grim stalemate of their own with their rivals from the red side of Manchester. You also have to go back a decade to find the last season where the Citizens had so few points after their opening 14 league matches.
It’s impossible to know how they’ll respond to their recent Covid issues too. While Pep Guardiola’s side would be worthy favourites under normal circumstances – they’re top of the form table for the last six matches – it’s not yet clear who will be available to play. Chelsea need a result and they may not get a better chance to pick one up in a big match for quite some time.
The defensive records of these two teams does not suggest this match will round off the first Sunday of the new year with a free-flowing festival of entertainment. It’ll take us all longer than that to get 2020 out of our systems. City have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season, while Chelsea have the fourth-best record. And as we’ve already discussed, their big games have been particularly light on goals.
There have been just 11 goals in the eight matches these sides have played against the other big clubs in 2020/21, and only a quarter of those games saw both teams score. Between them they have also been involved in all three 0-0s among the big six, and while the attacking talent on show makes another one unlikely here, it’s reasonable to assume this will be light on goals.
There are a lot of players who may feature who look intriguing from a goal scoring perspective. Kevin De Bruyne has the biggest difference between expected goals and goals scored in the Premier League this season, while City’s last seven goals have all been scored by different players.
On the Chelsea side, Tammy Abraham has scored three times in his last two matches (and was rested for the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa so will surely feature here) but that’s nothing compared to Olivier Giroud.
The Most Handsome Man In Football™ has netted eight goals across his last six appearances of longer than 11 minutes. What Timo ‘eight league games and 19 shots without a goal’ Werner wouldn’t give for a bit of that magic.
Any of these would be fine choices, but I’m going for Christian Pulisic. He scored against City and Liverpool last season and has missed a couple of very good chances recently. This could be where he scores his second league goal of 2020/21.
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