To be honest, it’s not really clear why Maurizio Sarri is under the cosh. The chap has won 28 of his first 43 games in charge of Chelsea in all competitions (D6 L9), which is one win more than Pep Guardiola managed in his first 43 with Manchester City (W27 D9 L7).
Surely then, given the anti-Sarri sentiment, Pep should have been run out of Manchester with pitchforks and Sam Allardyce brought in to steady the ship?
In any case, all the talk points to the Italian potentially being handed his P45 if Chelsea cack themselves against the defending champions in this weekend’s Carabao Cup final — and on the back of the filthy transfer ban which just got handed down by FIFA, we’re liking the look of Sarri to be gone before the Spurs game on February 27th.
Surely, though, a group of players Sarri had previously described as being “difficult to motivate” and who he said had approached the 6-0 hammering by Man City “without soul” will be buoyed by their incredible against-the-odds victory over Swedish footballing powerhouses Malmo? Surely, they’ll answer the rallying call of their inspirational, charismatic leader?
Nah, of course they won’t. Not even Danny Drinkwater can save Sarri now.
We reckon City will blow them away yet again — blowing the inventor of Sarri-ball all the way back to Naples in the process — and here’s how we think they will get the job done, described through our favourite bets for this Wembley showdown.
Some Pep in their step
As we all remember, City absolutely dismantled Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium earlier this month. Since then, the Londoners have managed to get past Malmo in the Europa League, but also suffered FA Cup elimination at the hands of the ‘other’ Manchester club.
The Citizens, meanwhile, have ensured progression in the FA Cup and took a massive step towards the Champions League quarter-finals thanks to a remarkable comeback against Bundesliga side Schalke midweek – winning 3-2, having been 2-1 down with 10-men. This was one of the rarer instances where City have won a game by just a solitary goal this season.
A glance at their results tells us that of their 21 wins in the Premier League, 17 of them have been achieved by a margin of two or more goals. In their last five games in all competitions, Guardiola’s men have scored 18 times, notching at least twice in each game, with the Schalke match being the only one where they didn’t win by a margin of greater than one goal.
With Sarri under immense pressure at the minute, he would hopefully have the cop-on to approach this game with a more rigid game plan than the one which saw them ship six goals to their opponents the last time they met, but we reckon it won’t be enough and we fancy City -1 here.
A case for the defence
The last five meetings between the sides have produced clean sheets, and City have won four of those five games — the solitary Chelsea victory coming in December’s 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge. The last time these teams met at Wembley was in the Community Shield at the start of the season, a game which ended 2-0 to City thanks to a brace from Sergio Aguero.
While City have been generally free-scoring, Chelsea have failed to score in four of their six Premier League games in 2019, with Sarri-ball coming in for heavy criticism for its lack of cutting edge. Those who like to clutch at straws will point to a Chelsea 5-0 win in this period as being evidence to the contrary; to counter, it must be pointed out that Chelsea’s opponents in that game were Huddersfield.
Given how effectively the Blues attack has been nullified in both their recent games against the Manchester clubs — and how Chelsea were only really able to turn the knife against Malmo after the Swedes went down to ten-men — we expect Sarri’s lads to shoot some blanks at Wembley yet again. With that in mind, we’re backing City for the shutout on Sunday.
We mentioned Aguero just there — he’s having an incredible season, isn’t he? The City frontman has 24 goals from 31 games in all competitions so far and heads into this final on the back of becoming the first player in history to score in seven consecutive Champions League away games for an English club. His goal against Schalke was his seventh for the month of February alone.
Chelsea are sick of the sight of him anyway — he has scored five goals in his last two appearances against them, including a hat-trick a few weeks back — and maybe it’s more than just coincidence that the only win Chelsea have managed to claim from their last five encounters with City came when the little Argentine wasn’t playing.
It’s also worth noting that Aguero scored against another London club — Arsenal — in the final of this competition last year.
With Guardiola and Co still chasing glory on four fronts and seeking to retain this famous(ish) old trophy, we reckon the Kun wreaks havoc once again and nets another Wembley goal on Sunday to win the game in 90 minutes.
* All odds correct at time of posting.