Welcome to the first edition of the ‘What Coronavirus Crisis Financial Meltdown?’ derby. Chelsea have already snapped up Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner and don’t look likely to stop there, while Manchester City can always find the odd hundred million for Pep Guardiola to spend on full-backs.
But such financial abandon can wait for the summer. Frank Lampard’s side have to focus on this match as they look to cement a spot in the top four, while City… what are they in it for, actually?
The current champions have no hope of retaining their title, and after 30 games are 17 points clear of fifth place. That may not matter either, depending on if their European ban is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. City’s ‘match’ with UEFA is far more important to them than any game in the league will be for the rest of this season.
Even so, they may have a powerful motivating tool for this one. After Liverpool thrashed Crystal Palace on Wednesday night, City need to win here to avoid crowning the Reds as champions.
While that outcome is inevitable, giving Jurgen Klopp’s side a guard of honour at the Etihad next week is something they’d rather avoid.
Paddy reckons City are red hot favourites. However, the underlying stats from this season – for what they’re worth after a three-month lockdown gap – suggest it’s actually the home side who should be favourites.
Looking at City’s record in big away games this season, it’s easy to see why. Guardiola’s side lost at Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United, with only the gimme of a win at Arsenal to ease their pain. Their recent record in west London isn’t dazzling either, with three wins and five defeats in their last 10 league visits to Chelsea.
Lampard’s lads have done pretty well at home in big league games this season. Chelsea beat Spurs, drew with Arsenal, and lost to Liverpool and United by the number of goals they had ruled out by VAR in those matches.
While City have a fabulous squad, the absence of Sergio Aguero – who has scored 15 goals in 19 appearances against Chelsea – may enable the home side to take something from the game.
Chelsea have been on the wrong end of the heaviest beatings in matches among the big six, most notably when they lost 6-0 at the Etihad last season.
Their heavyweight clashes at home tend to be closer though, with only four of the 14 in the last three seasons settled by more than a single goal. Three of the last six matches between two of the big boys at Stamford Bridge have seen one side fail to score too, including City’s visit last season.
Perhaps even more remarkably, both sides have netted in just one of the Citizens’ last nine big away matches. So while 1-1 is deemed the most likely outcome in the correct score market, the bet has to be for at least one of these teams to get nil on Thursday.
Olivier Giroud picked up where he left off after lockdown by scoring the winner at Villa Park. That takes his tally to three in his last six appearances for Chelsea, and one of those was the opener in a home win over Tottenham.
The World Cup winner also scored in his last three league starts against City, albeit the last of those was four years ago. But he’s good in the air and the current champions have proven susceptible in big games this season, conceding headers to Lucas Moura, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane.
Considering his record against the Blues, it’s natural to assume City would miss Aguero. Yet he hasn’t scored an away league goal against one of the big teams in the last three seasons. With Gabriel Jesus only having one to his name in that period, it may be wise to look elsewhere for a City scorer.
After Raheem Sterling was racially abused at Stamford Bridge last time, he’d probably like nothing more than to score on Thursday. He was rested against Burnley on Monday and got back on the goal trail against Arsenal in his last appearance.
Tips for Man City v Chelsea
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