Early evening kick-off for Chelsea this Saturday sees us away to Manchester City and clearly things are very different for our meeting this season. Not only will Shaun Wright-Phillips get a game, albeit for the opposition – and there’s more chance of them scoring in our goal than their own this time – but also, this time around, City will seriously regard us as a mere obstacle between them and their new owner’s ambition.
Whether that really is the case, or they’re just getting a little ahead of themselves with their newly inherited wealth, time will no doubt tell. But they’re certainly going to enjoy the high-life in the meantime if the private jets back from international duty are anything to go by anyway.
In the run up to the game, City manager (ironically also a former Chelsea and Manchester United player), Mark Hughes, says “I know it’s being billed as the ‘clash of the cash.’ We are really looking forward to getting back to playing football and the fixture against Chelsea is a fantastic one for us, it’s the perfect game for us given the circumstances. One of the main reason I came here was the anticipation of going into these games with top, top quality players. I missed that, I had it as a player and to a certain extent with Wales but at club level [with Blackburn] I never really had that. It was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to a bigger club and at the weekend that will be borne out because there will be a hell of a lot of focus on the game. I came here because I was told there was going to be resources to challenge the top four clubs. The circumstances may have changed somewhat but the resources are there – and more. Now it’s up to me to try to fulfill the promises I made.”
So will he start fulfilling that promise Saturday? Well, Chelsea have won their last six Premier League games against City, without conceding a goal. In fact, City have only scored one goal against us in our last twelve games, taking just four points from the last 42 available. However, having said that, the ‘new and improved’ City have already notched up eight goals this season, which is a couple more than we’ve managed in the absence of Didier Drogba.
City will have Martin Petrov out (knee) and Michael Johnson (groin) is also a doubt, although Micah Richards could be in contention after recovering from a shoulder injury. And, as we all know their Brazilian superstar, Robinho will make his grand entrance on Saturday at some point and plans to make Chelsea regret failing to pay more than £32.5million for him.
Chelsea news, as we also know, is that Michael Essien won’t be featuring for some time, although John Obi Mikel could step into the holding role. And the suggestion from Scolari is that Didier Drogba could get at least half a game following his recovery from long term knee trouble.
Shaun Wright-Phillips – Facing Chelsea for the first time since his £9million move last month. Scored a brace on his City homecoming debut and looked surprisingly like he’d never been away.
If on from the start – John Obi Mikel – returning from injury but an integral part of our opening day success against Pompey.
City have won more games than any other Premier League club so far this season (five league and cup games), winning their last three without conceding a goal (in all competitions) and are yet to concede a goal at home. Won their last two games, West Ham (h), Sunderland (a), by 3-0 margins although have won only two of their last eight games against the top four clubs.
Chelsea are looking for a fifth consecutive away win in the Premier League. Last away defeat came in December 2007 (Arsenal), won 17 and drawn 7 since then. Chelsea have the best Premier League record this calendar year with 15 wins and 6 draws from 21 games and are on the longest current run in the top-flight with 11 games unbeaten. Chelsea have managed 29 points out of the last possible 33 and have gone 11 games since conceding more than one goal in a game.
HEAD TO HEAD
Chelsea beat City both home and away last season (with 8 goals against them and none conceded), and will be looking for their fourth win in a row away to City, and their ninth in ten visits. City haven’t scored against Chelsea since 2004, when, ironically it was a Nicolas Anelka penalty at the City of Manchester stadium that saw us leave with a 1-0 defeat.
Home and away
League (inc PL): Man City 39 wins, Chelsea 51, Draws 36
Prem: Man City 2 wins, Chelsea 16, Draws 4
at Man City only
League (inc PL): Man City 27 wins, Chelsea 20, Draws 16
Prem: Man City 1 win, Chelsea 9, Draws 1
Man City 0 – 2 Chelsea
Chelsea Scorers: Dunne og, Kalou
5 April 2008 – Ref: Chris Foy
Well, things just aren’t looking that bright at Chelsea right now. Essien’s long-term injury was a huge blow but nowhere near as bad as the news that Steve Clarke won’t be around anymore. That’ll have a huge impact on how the team are feeling going into this game and I don’t predict many happy faces in Manchester from Chelsea’s point of view. City, on the other hand, couldn’t be happier right now and they’ll be going all out to prove they’re ready to compete with the big boys. All doom and gloom for this one I’m afraid.
Man City (from): Hart, Schmeichel, Richards, Kompany, Zabaleta, Dunne, Onuoha, Ben Haim, Ball, Garrido, Fernandes, Hamann, Ireland, Johnson, Elano, Evans, Sturridge, Caicedo, Jo, Robinho.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Cudicini, Hilario, Bosingwa, Terry, Carvalho, A Cole, Belletti, Obi, Lampard, Deco, Anelka, Drogba, J Cole, Bridge, Alex, Ferreira, Kalou, Malouda, Di Santo, Ivanovic.
Mark Halsey (Lancs)