This weekend sees arguably one of the most defining games of the Premier League season. It may sound strange to state this with 16 games left to play and the season barely into the second month of 2015, but the result of Saturday evening’s clash between Chelsea and Manchester City could go a long way towards deciding the outcome of the title race.
As always in the final section we will preview our betting picks for punters using Bet365. If you haven’t yet tried the site, follow the link to our review and explanation of how new accountholders qualify to receive $100 in free sports bets from Bet365.
The current situation
At the moment, Chelsea are five points ahead of Manchester City in the Premier League table, with City themselves five points ahead of Southampton in third. Assuming that Ronald Koeman’s men do not have a realistic chance of the title, it seems likely that the Premier League is now a two horse race.
This is what makes Saturday’s game so pivotal. A win for Manchester City and Chelsea’s lead is cut once again to just two points. A win for Chelsea and that would mean Jose Mourinho’s men would extend their lead over Manchester City to eight points. That gap would be a huge one to bridge over the final 15 games of the season.
City’s dilemma is exacerbate by the fact that influential midfielder Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony could be absent from the game due to African Cup of Nations duty for the Ivory Coast. It is Toure’s absence though that would be felt the most, especially in a game of this magnitude. However, if the Ivory Coast do not progress through the group stages, Toure and Bony could be back in time for the Saturday evening clash.
It is a huge game and one that could decide the destiny of the title, so let’s take a look at how each team’s form stands up going into the game.
After their shock 5-3 humbling to Tottenham at White Hart Lane on New Year’s Day, Chelsea bounced back with three wins in a row to take a grip at the top of the Premier League table.
However in their last two games, they were fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw at Anfield against Liverpool in a game the home side absolutely dominated.
Worse was to follow at the weekend however when League One Bradford City came back from 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge to record a stunning 4-2 victory over Chelsea in the FA Cup Fourth Round. That was a result that manager Jose Mourinho labelled as a “humiliation” for his team and as such, there will be added focus on the Chelsea team ahead of this crucial clash with Manchester City.
The Blues will have had a chance to warm up for the City game in midweek when they face Liverpool in the second leg of their Capital One Cup tie, however such a tough game before a massive league game may not be the ideal preparation.
On the flip side, it does give Chelsea a chance to get the Bradford result out of their system and a place in a cup final booked before they take on their closest league rivals. Chelsea have an almost full squad to select from for the game with only John Obi Mikel and Andre Schurrle potential doubts, although that may change following the game with Liverpool.
Probable Chelsea team: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Willian, Oscar, Hazard, Costa.
Manchester City form
Frustration may be a key word for Manchester City at the moment. Having clawed back Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League table throughout November and December, two draws (against Burnley and Everton) and a 2-0 home defeat to Arsenal has seen Chelsea open up another gap on the current Premier League champions.
To exacerbate matters, City then went out of the FA Cup at the weekend, succumbing to a 2-0 home defeat to Middlesbrough. Manuel Pellegrini’s men only returned to the UK from a trip to Dubai 21 hours before that game and that cannot have been the best preparation ahead of an important cup tie.
However, City do have the best away record in the Premier League this season but they come into this game having not won in their last three and minus Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony, both of whom are away at the African Cup of Nations and who are unlikely to return before the game with Chelsea.
Manuel Pellegrini should have a strong squad to pick from with Samir Nasri set to be fit and Sergio Aguero also back in action.
Probable Manchester City team: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, De Michelis, Clichy, Milner, Silva, Nasri, Fernando, Fernandinho, Aguero.
Top Tips for Chelsea v Manchester City
This is a game which both sides will feel they need to get something from. As strange as it may sound, a draw may be a better result for the home team, as they’d maintain their five-point lead over Manchester City, but Jose Mourinho is unlikely to think in such negative terms, especially in a home game.
As such, I can foresee a game where both sides are committed to attack and with the two best strikers in the Premier League on the pitch in Diego Costa and Sergio Aguero, this could be a game decided by either one of these sharpshooters.
I do feel there will be goals and I do think that home advantage will be crucial here and as such, I think Chelsea at 19/20 for the win are the best full time result bet. If you wanted to back a correct score bet then I’d back the 8/1 available with Bet365 on a 2-1 Chelsea victory.
Another possible bet you can consider is the Result and Both Teams to score bet, which if you back Chelsea and both teams to score, you can get odds of 13/5 on that outcome.
First goalscorer odds are not yet available for this game, but you’d be foolish to overlook either Diego Costa or Sergio Aguero here, with the Chelsea man likely the smart choice.
However, as an outside bet, Eden Hazard to score at any time could also be a decent bet given that the Belgian is the home sides penalty taker.