Preview: Manchester City vs. Chelsea
Manchester City welcomes Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday knowing that a victory will be enough to see them crowned champions of the Premier League for a third successive season.
The West Londoners are seeking revenge having already lost three times against the Citizens this campaign, including a 1-0 league defeat at Stamford Bridge in January courtesy of a second-half strike from Riyad Mahrez.
Twenty-four years on from watching bitter rivals Manchester United win the treble, history beckons for noisy neighbours Man City who are on the cusp of winning three trophies of their own this season and etching their name into footballing folklore.
Pep Guardiola has successfully steered the Citizens into the Champions League final courtesy of an utterly dominant 4-0 semi-final second-leg triumph at home against holders Real Madrid on Wednesday, with Bernardo Silva (2), Manuel Akanji and Julian Alvarez all on the scoresheet to set up a final showdown with Inter Milan in Istanbul on June 10.
An FA Cup Manchester-derby final at Wembley is already pencilled into City’s diary a week earlier, but their primary focus is on securing maximum points on Sunday that will ensure the Premier League trophy remains in their grasp for a third season running – a remarkable feat only achieved twice previously by Man United between 1998 and 2001 and between 2006 and 2009.
Guardiola’s side, who at the time of writing sit four points clear at the summit with a game in hand on second-placed Arsenal, are enjoying one of their customary winning runs at the perfect stage of the season, claiming all three points in each of their last 11 Premier League games, while their home form across all competitions is astonishing to say the least, as they have won all 16 matches at the Etihad since the turn of the year, scoring 56 goals and conceding only seven in the process.
This run on home soil began with a comprehensive 4-0 victory against Chelsea in the FA Cup third round in early January, one of five wins without reply the Citizens have recorded against the West Londoners since losing the 2021 Champions League final in Porto.
Lifting the Premier League trophy in front of their home supporters would be the perfect way for Man City to mark their final home game of the season before shifting their focus to hunting down two more pieces of silverware next month.
Sitting a remarkable 42 points behind leaders Man City, Chelsea appear to be heading for their first bottom-half finish in the Premier League since 1995-96 after being forced to play out a 2-2 draw with relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest last weekend.
Raheem Sterling scored twice in the space of seven second-half minutes to turn the game on its head after Taiwo Awoniyi had put Forest ahead early doors, but it was the Nigerian striker who had the last laugh as he restored parity just after the hour mark to help the visitors claim a hard-fought point at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard’s side are still languishing in 11th place in the Premier League table, eight points behind West London rivals Fulham in 10th with a game in hand, and the prospect of the Blues claiming any more points this term seems slim as they face Man City, Man United and Newcastle United in their final three fixtures.
Chelsea enter Sunday’s contest having failed to win any of their last 14 Premier League games against teams starting the day above them in the table, while they have lost six of their last seven visits to the Etihad.
However, Lampard is one of only two Premier League managers to prevent Man City from winning on home soil this season, after his former club Everton claimed a point in a 1-1 draw on New Year’s Eve. A similar resilient performance is required from Chelsea if they are to have any chance of claiming a positive result and delaying the Citizens’ impending title celebrations.
Manchester City Premier League form:
Manchester City form (all competitions):
Chelsea Premier League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
We say: Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea
Even if Guardiola decides to rotate his side, Man City have the strength in depth to dispatch a Chelsea outfit merely playing for pride and experiencing an experimental phase as the season draws to a close.
The Citizens have won their final home league fixture in eight of the last nine seasons and we expect them to secure another comfortable victory over the Blues in front of a party atmosphere at the Etihad.