Big Match Focus: Manchester City v Chelsea

Chelsea will be looking to deal a blow to Manchester City's title aspirations and boost its hopes of securing Champions League football.

David Luiz scores Chelsea's second in its 2-0 win over Manchester City the last time thee two teams met.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Manchester City's reignited title challenge faces a huge test on Sunday as the defending Premier League champion welcomes Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium.

City's hopes of retaining the trophy took a huge hit when it stunningly lost 2-1 at Newcastle United last Tuesday. However, Liverpool failed to take advantage of that slip-up, recording back-to-back draws 1-1 with Leicester City and West Ham.

Those results, plus City's victories over Arsenal and Everton, mean Pep Guardiola's men go into the weekend top of the table on goal difference, though it could start Sunday's match three points adrift once more as Liverpool hosts Bournemouth on Saturday.

READ | Fabregas hopes Hazard stays at Chelsea

And Maurizio Sarri's Blues are more than capable of dealing City another blow, having beaten them 2-0 in the reverse fixture and responded to questions over a lack of motivation from their Italian manager with a 5-0 thumping of Huddersfield Town last time out.

Will that momentum carry into this fixture and help Chelsea produce another twist in the title race? We take a look at the history, as well as the form of both clubs, in an attempt to find an answer.

A HAZARDOUS OPPONENT

If Chelsea is to unlock the City defence, there is a good chance Eden Hazard will be the key.

The Belgium playmaker has had a hand in five goals in his last five games against City, scoring three while also providing two assists.

Each of those assists came in Chelsea's 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge in December, laying on goals for N'Golo Kante and David Luiz.

Sergio Aguero missed that game through injury, so he will hope to atone for his absence on Sunday. The Argentine striker has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances against Chelsea, too.

Chelsea's Eden Hazard has scored thrice in his last five games against City.   -  Getty Images

 

FORM GUIDE

Though City slipped up at Newcastle, the Etihad remains a fortress for Guardiola's side.

City has scored at least twice in its last 14 Premier League home games, winning 13 and losing just one of those fixtures. Should it find the net twice against a Chelsea side that shipped four at Bournemouth in its previous away match, it will set a new competition record for scoring more than once in consecutive home games.

READ | City thought it was all over, says Bernardo Silva

Chelsea's form aganst fellow 'big six' sides on the road does not exactly inspire confidence - it is winless in its last six against its major rivals, including losing the last four in a row.

However, the London club is unbeaten in seven league games against the reigning champion (W4 D3), winning each of the last three such meetings. Only two teams have ever won four or more consecutive games against the team holding the title – Liverpool (four between 2000 and 2002) and Manchester City (6 between 2011 and 2016).

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick in Manchester City's 3-1 win over Arsenal.   -  Getty Images

 

HEAD-TO-HEAD (Fernandinho v Jorginho)

Fernandinho and Jorginho are both players of vital importance to their respective midfields, with the battle between the two likely to be crucial to Sunday's outcome.

Jorginho did not take long to settle in English football and Chelsea's deep-lying playmaker has been metronomic when it comes to his distribution. He has attempted 2,219 passes at an accuracy rate of 90.3 per cent.

By comparison, 87.9 per cent of Fernandinho's 1,824 passes have been accurate, though it can be argued his overall impact has been greater.

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The Brazilian has created 19 chances to Jorginho's 16 and provided three assists, while the Italy international has yet to be credited with one this season. Fernandinho also has a slight edge in interceptions (34 to 31) and fouls won (24 to 19.)

Fernandinho will be key to both attack and defence for City.   -  Getty Images

 

HISTORY SAYS...

The history books do not make for kind reading for either side.

City has suffered defeat in three of their last five Premier League matches against Chelsea (W2), scoring just four goals in that run.

However, Chelsea has tasted victory on only two of its last nine visits to the Etihad in the Premier League (D1 L6), winning 1-0 in February 2014 and 3-1 in December 2016.

Still, if Chelsea does emerge triumphant, it will complete another league double over City. It has achieved that feat on 10 previous occasions, the most a side has done so against City in the competition's history.

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