There are 14 points and eight places between Manchester City and Chelsea in the Premier League, but it’s Guus Hiddink’s Pensioners that have the upper hand going into Sunday’s mammoth FA Cup clash. While Chelsea flirted harder with relegation than one of Paddy Power’s marketing men flirts with anything with a pulse in Coppers, since Jose Mourinho got his comeuppance in December the reigning Premier League champs – for the time being anyway – have turned things around.
Hiddink has installed a bit of Dutch courage into his squad and has gone unbeaten in his nine Premier League games, winning three and drawing six. More importantly however, the Chelsea manager has got Diego Costa firing on all his bastardly cylinders again and that could be City’s undoing in the Cup.
Although it may appear that Hiddink’s win rate is only marginally better than Mourinho’s in the league this season, Chelsea’s new-found backbone means they are yet to taste defeat under the interim gaffer. Hiddink’s nine games include draws home and away to Manchester United, as well as a 1-0 win away to Premier League favourites Arsenal. It’s a far different story compared to Mourinho’s defeats to Bournemouth, Stoke and West Ham – as well as conceding three goals each in losses to Manchester City, Everton and Liverpool.
Diego Costa has taken time out from drowning puppies and kittens to rediscover his ruthless streak in front of goal. Under Hiddink he now has seven goals in eight league games, compared to just three in 14 matches under Mourinho this season. Chelsea are the favourites to pick up the win at Stamford Bridge and progress to the last eight of the FA Cup, and we’re willing to put a few pennies on Diego Costa playing a key part in deciding the tie.
Costa is a shot to open the scoring against Manchester City, and five of his 10 league goals this year have been the first goal of the game. For a slightly more cautious punt, Costa is to find the onion bag at anytime and to be the first Chelsea name on the scoresheet.
However Manchester City’s drop in form since the announcement that Pep Guardiola will be taking over in the summer is hard to ignore. An unconvincing 1-0 win away to relegation-threatened Sunderland was followed up but back-to-back home defeats against title challengers Leicester and Tottenham. Most notably is City’s record against the Premier League’s top eight, which reads one win, three draws and six defeats this year. While Chelsea may not be a top eight side on paper, they’re squad is arguably right up there, and Manuel Pellegrini’s struggles against the league’s best may come back to haunt him in the cup.
The best bet of the match may therefore be a Chelsea victory with Diego Costa finding the back of the net at anytime at a price of . Costa has scored in nine league games this year and six have ended in a Chelsea victory – with three finishing all square. Guus Hiddink has his star striker back in form, and Manchester City’s lofty hopes of a quadruple could officially end courtesy of Costa on Sunday.