The champions are rocking with 13 wins from 15 this season, while the Blues are rocking for another reason as they have lost two of their last three to sit 10 points adrift in fourth place.
Here we assess the talking points ahead of the game:
BLUES SUFFERING FROM BLACKOUTS
“We have a problem to manage the match at the moment. In the last two matches we played well for 55, 60 minutes, then the first difficulty we went in blackout,” Maurizio Sarri said ahead of Saturday’s showdown.
When Sarri finally took the reins at Chelsea in the summer, we all worried how long it would take the Italian to mould the club into his vision.
After all, he was only confirmed as compatriot Antonio Conte’s successor on July 14; most opponents were already well into the throes of pre-season. The Blues were beaten easily by City in the Community Shield at Wembely a mere 22 days after his appointment. It would surely take a few months to get Chelsea up and running.
Except it didn’t. Huddersfield, so dogged on their Premier League debut a year ago, were kept quiet as the Blues brushed them aside on opening day. The first big hurdle for Sarri came quickly in the second game of the campaign, against Arsenal. Unai Emery, another man in a new job, saw his Gunners outgunned 3-2. Second-placed Liverpool were brushed aside at Anfield 2-1 as the Sarri reign got off to a resplendent start.
The club record for most games unbeaten to start a season was surpassed as Chelsea went 18 games in all competitions undefeated until November 24.
Defeat to Tottenham was followed by a 2-1 reversal at Wolves on Wednesday. And now, even despite a mesmeric beginning to 2018/19, the roaring form of champions City and Liverpool has left the Blues 10 points adrift of Saturday’s opponents at the top.
Neither have tasted defeat while former banker Sarri’s stock has fallen slightly following two losses in his last three. After such a bright start to the season, defeat to City would certainly dim their title ambitions.
Pep Guardiola confirmed Sergio Aguero will miss the trip to Stamford Bridge while Kevin De Bruyne – who at one time was penciled in to make his comeback against his former side – is not quite ready.
Given the form of City’s attackers this season though, it’s not really much of a blow for the rampant champions.
Raheem Sterling is the joint third highest scorer in the Premier League this season with eight goals in 12 games. He is level with Aguero and Brighton’s Glenn Murray. Harry Kane has one more than him and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is two ahead. All four are strikers.
Leroy Sane is just two adrift with six strikes. On the creativity side of the ball, City hardly seem to be suffering despite missing arguably the league’s best player in De Bruyne. The top 10 assist makers this term house four City players – Sterling (six) is joint second alongside such illustrious schemers as Eden Hazard, Christian Eriksen and Aaron Ramsey. Sane and Benjamin Mendy are just one assist adrift, while even Aguero rounds out the top 10 with four. That’s without mentioning the two Silvas, David and Bernardo, and Riyad Mahrez, all of whom are among the goals.
If you took any of the top six sides’ two highest caliber players out of their line-up – for a prolonged point of time in De Bruyne’s case – there is no way they would be boasting a goal difference of +38 15 games into the season and on course for even headier heights than last term.
CAN GAB GRAB HIS CHANCE?
With that being said, it’s an anomaly to see a City attacker feeling blue. As those around him at the front of the pitch show off the lethal tendancies, the only thing Gabriel Jesus is scoring is feint praise from his manager about his work ethic and determination – just what every striker dreads hearing.
As Sane, Sterling and Co tear Premier League defences to shreds, the Brazilian cannot buy a goal. With Aguero plundering eight in 13 games and Sterling striking the same amount of times in 12 matches, 21-year-old Jesus has just one goal to his name in the same amount of appearances.
OK, so he’s played a mere 470 minutes compared to Sterling’s 1,026, but with the amount of chances the team is creating, this seems a little more than rustiness due to also being in and out of the side with injury or poor form.
His sole strike came on August 19, in a 6-1 hammering of Huddersfield – that’s nearly four months ago. The quality is obviously still there – the South American netted a hat-trick in the 6-0 spanking of Shakhtar Donestsk in the Champions League last month. The only other side to have felt his wrath have been League One Oxford in the League Cup.
Ordinarily the absence of Aguero would provide Jesus with a shot at salvation. But in such a crucial top-of-the-table clash against a title contender, Guardiola may well be tempted to deploy Sterling as a false nine, with Sane and the improving Mahrez either side of him.
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