Manchester City vs Chelsea: Match preview & prediction | Premier League 2018-19
Maurizio Sarri pulled out a tactical masterclass last time out against Pep Guardiola, as City suffered their first Premier League defeat in 22 games, since a 2-3 defeat to Manchester United last April.
It is sure to be a closely contested affair, at least that's what recent records and statistics suggest. While Guardiola's men have lost thrice in the last five league outings against Chelsea, the Blues have emerged victorious on just two of their last nine visits to the blue half of Manchester.
A recent dip in form has jeopardized Chelsea's bid for a top 4 spot to an extent, and they will surely not be helped by the fact that they are winless in their last six PL games against the 'big six'.
How will the sides set up?
Now that you have the statistics, let's take you through how the teams might pan out on the pitch.
Starting off with the champions - Guardiola will field a 4-3-3 configuration, with Aymeric Laporte set to continue at left-back. Kyle Walker will be on the opposite side of the defence, while John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi could start, which only means Fernandinho will revert to the base of midfield.
With Bernardo Silva emerging as a teacher's pet of late, he will be a sure starter. Former Chelsea man and arguably Chelsea's biggest mistake, Kevin De Bruyne, could start in the three-man midfield.
Sarri, on the other hand, will play his traditional XI, with only a couple of spots for grabs. It will be interesting to see if his side sit back as they did in the first half against City, but we say no because, in that fixture, Eden Hazard cut a frustrated figure while playing as a target man.
Gonzalo Higuain's finishing has drawn loads of plaudits, and that could benefit Hazard and Chelsea, who like to dictate the pace of the game and keep the ball for long spans.
The Italian mastermind, Sarri, will be knowing full well that a small lapse of concentration could see his defence breached and dismantled by one of the paciest attacks in world football. Pep, on the contrary, will want his midfielders to shut down space on the edge of the 18-yard box and make Chelsea play it down wide.
If Chelsea can continue to display free-flowing football, it could turn out to be how Napoli played against City in the Champions League last season. But most importantly, both sides will have shut the opposition's attacking prowess and stay switched on at the back.
Home comforts, Higuain's physical condition, and Chelsea's inconsistency should see Manchester City strengthening their place at the very top. However, with Pedro to return to the starting XI and maraud forward with Hazard, we can expect a goal from the visitors.
Predicted score: Manchester City 3-1 Chelsea