Sunday 16th August – 16:00 – Etihad Stadium
Last season’s top two – and the favourites for this year’s Premier League title – meet at the Etihad Stadium in the first heavyweight clash of the 2015-16 season. It may only be the second weekend of the campaign, but the early appearance of Manchester City versus Chelsea in the fixture list will still prove a pointer for the rivals’ respective credentials heading into the next nine months of competition. The build-up to the game has been completely dominated by the fallout from Blues boss Jose Mourinho’s row with the club’s medical staff in the wake of the reigning champions’ opening-day home draw with Swansea. By contrast, Manuel Pellegrini’s side enjoyed a comfortable start to the season with a comfortable 3-0 win at West Brom – and Sergio Aguero wasn’t even on the pitch for any of the goals. A sign of improvement for City perhaps, however, the last time Chelsea failed to win either of their opening two Premier League games was in 1998. A cracking game is in store with both teams wanting to show their intent early on in the season.
- Yaya Toure, who scored against West Brom on the opening weekend, is fit despite being substituted at the Hawthorns because of a slight groin problem.
- Full-back Gael Clichy may return following an ankle injury, but Fabian Delph and Fernando are both ruled out.
- Sergio Aguero could return to City’s starting XI having been eased back into action after international duty over the summer. The Argentine, last year’s Premier League top scorer, played the final 30 minutes against West Brom on Monday night after Wilfried Bony started up front.
- The Blues are without first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after their appeal against his red card versus Swansea and one-match suspension was rejected. New summer signing Asmir Begovic is again set to deputise.
- Oscar is a doubt for the match after picking up a knock in training, meaning that Ramires will be recalled for the starting XI with Cesc Fabregas playing in a more advanced role.
- Diego Costa is in line to start in attack again after overcoming a recurring hamstring injury and playing the full 90 minutes last weekend.
The Key Battle: Sergio Aguero vs Asmir Begovic
Asmir Begovic may have signed for Chelsea for £8 million this summer, but knew he would be back-up to Thibaut Courtois. However, it’s unlikely he thought his chance would come as soon as this.
Following the Belgian keeper’s straight red card against Swansea last weekend, Begovic came on but couldn’t save Bafetimbi Gomis’ penalty as the Blues drew 2-2.
A lot of Chelsea fans are worried about the Bosnian’s capability between the sticks after a few shaky performances in pre-season, but they may be forgetting he was a sought after keeper and kept seven clean sheets last season.
One of those came at the Etihad Stadium in September, but then in February he did concede four against City, including two Sergio Aguero goals.
After reaching the Copa America final with Argentina, the striker had an extended summer break which meant he only played the last half an hour against West Brom on Monday night.
But he is now fully fit and raring to go and get started to try and beat his 32 goals in all competitions last season. With Edin Dzeko having left on loan to Roma during the week, Aguero is now one of only two senior strikers at the Etihad Stadium, but has hit the back of the net nine times in his last eight Premier League appearances.
Manchester City wins = 47 / Chelsea wins = 57 / Draws = 38
*According to http://www.manchestercity-mad.co.uk
Last Meeting: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City (31st January 2015)
Chelsea maintained their five-point advantage over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table after a disappointing stalemate at Stamford Bridge. Loic Remy – in for suspended leading goalscorer Diego Costa – gave Chelsea the lead just before the interval but David Silva replied almost instantly for City after a rare error from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Managers Quotes (New for 2015-16)
Manuel Pellegrini: “We are not thinking about the title in the second game but we are thinking about trying to win our points at home, especially as we are playing against the champions and one of the teams that has a lot of chances to win the title.”
Jose Mourinho: “We are speaking about 38 matches. It is an eternity, a marathon that started last week. I cannot say [this match] is not crucial, I cannot say it’s not very, very, very important. They are title contenders so three points are important, but I cannot say that a win will mean anything significant.”
The Referee (New for 2015-16) – Martin Atkinson
It’s no surprise that one of the Premier League’s most experienced referees Martin Atkinson, who refereed last season’s Europa League final, will take charge at the Etihad. Last season, the 44 year old officiated 48 games in all competitions, handing out 193 yellow cards and 11 red – an average of 4.25 cards per game along with 13 penalties. Last weekend he was the man in the middle at the Emirates Stadium, giving four yellows as West Ham beat Arsenal 2-0.
Stat of the Match
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four Premier League games against Manchester City, but have won just one of their previous seven games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions.
Where can I watch it?
Sky Sports 1 are showing the game live, with coverage beginning at 3:30pm – kick-off is half an hour later. The highlights will then be on BBC One’s Match of the Day at 10:30pm on Sunday evening.
My Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
Chelsea are due a defeat in the month of August having not lost in the opening month of the campaign since 2006. They didn’t convince me personally in their 2-2 draw against a good Swansea side last weekend, whilst Thibaut Courtois’ absence could hit them hard. However they still do possess plenty of attacking quality and I think Diego Costa could give them the lead, but Manchester City looked very impressive and up for the challenge on Monday night against West Brom, so should come back. Goals from a now fully fit Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling could give them a win, and hand a the Blues a first defeat of the campaign – something which they didn’t suffer until early December in 2014-15.