One down, two to go: that will be Pep Guardiola's thinking, after he watched his Manchester City players land their first silverware of the season in Sunday’s Carabao Cup demolition of Arsenal. Goals from Aguero, Silva and Kompany secured a 3-0 victory over the Gunners, in yet another display of dominance from the Citizens in a season that's turning into the stuff of legend for their supporters.
Focus will now return to league matters, where City hold a resounding 13-point lead over the chasing pack. But with a rematch against Arsenal on Thursday, followed by this encounter with Chelsea on Sunday, there's the potential for the title race to be blown wide open again if Pep’s men display any symptoms of a cup hangover.
The bigger picture is that the Mancunian outfit are targeting a historic treble, with Premier League and Champions League honours to go with their Carabao Cup triumph. Defending champions Chelsea might just have something to say about that on Sunday but it will certain take a lot to derail Man City's pursuits.
It has not been the season that Chelsea’s players, management and supporters were expecting. After dominating the Premier League last term, the Blues have stuttered to fifth place this time around and are on a run of three defeats in their last four outings.
The glass-half-full merchants will suggest the 2017/18 campaign can still be a success for Chelsea: a top 4 finish, backed by a decent run in Champions and a tilt at the FA Cup, would be considered a relatively progressive effort. But the issue is that, right now, certainly the former two of those wishes appear to be pipe dreams.
The Blues have lost their je ne sais quoi, the summer sale of Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa clearly hampering their progress. Alvaro Morata started well but has since gone off the boil, leading to a lack of goals, while Tiemoue Bakayoko (Matic’s nominal replacement) is yet to take to the unique conditions of English football.
Factor in a recent inability to keep clean sheets – they have shipped nine goals in their last four league dates – and it's fair to say that all is not well in the Chelsea camp. No wonder Antonio Conte, a typically passionate and ‘heart on sleeve’ Italian, is looking so hangdog on the touchline these days.
Their loss at Old Trafford on Sunday continued a run of failure in beating their fellow ‘big six’ clubs away from home, which dates back to August, when they pickpocketed Tottenham as they were getting used to life at their temporary Wembley home. Otherwise, it has been tough going for Conte’s side at Liverpool (1-1), Arsenal (2-2) and Manchester United (1-2).
The football betting markets across the most popular betting sites reflect Chelsea’s current malaise, with bookmakers all across the country as well as across the web pricing Manchester City as short as 8/15 to take the spoils in this Super Sunday clash. But are they undervaluing the reigning Premier League champions?
One of the concerns for Manchester City is that a couple of their key players are currently struggling with injuries. Raheem Sterling missed the Carabao Cup final with a calf injury, while Fernandinho picked up a thigh injury during that duel with the Gunners and is expected to miss the next couple of games.
Add into the mix the current suspension of Fabian Delph and Pep Guardiola has something of a selection dilemma to solve – not that the odds of 21/5 on offer from the likes of Ladbrokes for a Chelsea victory appeal. There are no superlatives left to describe Manchester City this term.
The fact they're unbeaten at home this season – including 13 wins in 14 starts at the City of Manchester Stadium – speaks volumes. But we’re not willing to completely write off Chelsea just yet, as Conte has shown already this term that his tactical tinkering can secure positive results, as it did at Anfield and the Emirates Stadium, as well as against Barcelona in the Champions League just the other week.
You can accept that Manchester City are the worthy favourite for this match, but also that Chelsea may just outperform may pundits’ expectations on Sunday afternoon. Back the +1.00 Asian handicap in Chelsea’s favour at an industry best price of 97/100 with Black Type; your stake will be refunded if the Blues lose by a solitary goal.
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