The first televised live match this weekend could prove to be the most crucial of the season to date as it brings together the two best teams in the league, with no disrespect to Liverpool and Arsenal. The match between Manchester City and Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium will tell us much about the destiny of the Premier League trophy at the end of this season. Home advantage can be key to the outcome and City are fancied to pick up three points.
It really is a case of not saving the best to last and the other live fixtures will be like something after the Lord Major’s Show. West Ham against Arsenal later in the day will be a feisty London derby and Everton versus Manchester United is always a frenetic clash. Bournemouth v Liverpool has away win written all over it. If you persevere until Monday night the match between Middlesbrough and Hull City will not get your juices flowing so the highlight is the north v south clash between City and Chelsea.
City have won the last two meetings and you have to go back to 2010/11 for the last time they won three on the bounce. Chelsea have not won any of the last four clashes and that is their longest winless streak against City in Premier League history. However, they have won 11 of the road trips to this part of Manchester, their best record against any team since the start of the Premier League. Sergio Aguero has scored four goals in his last two encounters with Chelsea but if he notches this time it probably will not be with a header as Chelsea are the only Premier League side not to concede a headed goal this season and indeed they also haven’t found the net with a header.
This fixture is one of the most played in the main division as both sides are traditionally top level outfits. Since 1907 there have been 155 meetings of which Chelsea have won 64, lost 52 and there have been 39 draws. City have won five of the last 10, lost three and 2 have been drawn. Both teams have scored in half those fixtures and five have produced more than two goals. Over the last 10 fixtures City have scored 15 goals and conceded 12. All in all recent outcomes have been fairly even.
In terms of current form Chelsea have the edge. Antonio Conte is the first Chelsea manager to win seven consecutive Premier League games within a single since Jose Mourinho won nine on the spin in 2006/07. Interestingly City have only kept out the opposition twice in 13 league matches with Pep Guardiola in charge. Many of the stats point to Chelsea not losing but this is a critical game and City have enough to beat their great rivals in a low scoring match.
West Ham have conceded at least twice against Arsenal at home in the last seven fixtures while Arsenal did not lose any of their last eight trips to Upton Park. It would be ironic if the Hammers bucked that those trends at the London Stadium where in theory home advantage is less of the factor than at their former ground. Arsenal are one of West Ham’s bogey teams, losing against them more times than against any other opponent. Arsenal can avoid defeat and a win is not beyond them.
The match between Everton and Manchester United has history and one of the subplots is the Wayne Rooney factor. A booking against West Ham in the EFL Cup rules him out this time but once Rooney becomes United’s record scorer he could be on his way back to Goodison Park. David Moyes managed both clubs and Phil Neville only played for the two sides who can play out a scoring draw on Sunday.
When this fixture is played next season Rooney could be wearing a blue shirt again because as he once famously declared “once a Blue, always a Blue” despite not playing for the team he supports for the last 12 years. However, he owes United nothing and could give the club he adores two years good service as a contributor and not in a ceremonial role. He can ponder his future from the stands this weekend or he can let his mind drift to the prospect of Boro v Hull on Monday Night Football!