Pep Guardiola v Antonio Conte. Sergio Aguero v Diego Costa. Manchester City v Chelsea. It’s all on the line this afternoon at the Etihad Stadium and without sounding like an old footballing pundit who reels out cliches like a Generation Game conveyor belt, this could genuinely be a very early title decider.
So we might be getting a touch carried away with the hyperbole on TV, but this could genuinely be a thriller. Manchester City were as short as 4/7 for the league title after Pep Guardiola guided the Citizens to six straight wins from their opening six games – including an utterly dominant 2-1 victory in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.
But it isn’t straightforward. City then dropped points at home to Everton, Southampton and Middlesbrough, while down south Conte’s switch to 3-4-3 at Chelsea yielded a drastic change in form. Since back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, Chelsea have won the last seven games on the spin, scoring 19 goals and conceding just one – including a 4-0 hammering of Manchester United, a 5-0 spanking of Everton, and a hard-fought 2-1 victory against London rivals Tottenham. Conte’s men proved they have plenty of substance to go with their style.
After a barnstorming opening third to the season, Paddy’s trading team can’t separate the two sides with both City and Chelsea 2/1 for the Premier League crown. Conte’s men have a slight edge at the moment with one extra point and a marginally better defensive record – but these teams are harder to split than Ant and Dec.
Chelsea have won half of the last 20 league matches between the two sides, but City fans will point to the fact that they’ve only lost one of the last seven league matches against Chelsea at home. It’s all set to be tighter than Wayne Rooney’s waistband and that’s why the draw at might be the best bet of the day.
The good news for the neutrals is that there should be goals because in Sergio Aguero and Diego Costa, the two hottest strikers in the league will be on the field at the same time. Both men are locked at 10 goals in the race for the Golden Boot, with Aguero to open the scoring today and Costa a tempting punt. Already this season City have fallen behind at home to Everton and Boro before salvaging a point, and therefore Costa to open the scoring and the teams to draw 1-1 at 33/1 could get the weekend off to the perfect start.