The title favourites Manchester City and Chelsea will be looking to prove their worth this Sunday where they will be facing each other for the first time this season. The two clubs whose spending power has helped them climb to the position they are in now has been unmatched in recent years, although City’s fierce rivals United have been investing very heavily this summer. For Chelsea, this is their first real challenge after maintaining a 100% winning start, while Manchester City who have already beaten Liverpool and gained a point at Arsenal will be eager to reduce the five point gap after a shock home defeat to Stoke.
Chelsea have had one of the best transfer windows this summer for me, with a net spend of just £13.1m thanks to the big money sales of Lukaku and Luiz. The two stand-out recruits, Costa and Fabregas, have both got off to an incredible start, with Diego solving the striker problem that has been troubling Chelsea since, well, Drogba left!
City have also enjoyed a pretty shrewd window with a net spend of £24m. The team which won the league last season has remained almost entirely intact, with the only surprise being the exit of Negredo on deadline day, leaving on a season long loan to Valencia. Last season City boasted the highest goals scored with 102, and the second best defensive record with just 37 goals conceded, after Chelsea (27). Despite this, Pellegrini has splashed £32m on the Porto centre-back Mangala, making him the most expensive defender in British football, in an attempt to improve his team further.
Quality and Depth
The season is a marathon not a sprint, so it is therefore important for any title challenger to have enough depth to cope with any injuries and tiredness that often comes along with having such stars that are called up for international duty, as well as extra games in the European competitions. I’ve looked at the current squads of Chelsea and Manchester City and compared them side by side as eleven man teams below.
The strongest eleven possible:
If you look at these line-ups you can see straight away why they’re both touted as the two title favourites. Let’s run through the positions:
Goalkeeper: Courtois and Hart are both relatively young keepers who are also first choice for Belgium and England respectively. I have to give a draw here.
Defence: Chelsea’s backline conceded the least amount of goals last season, however Terry is not getting any younger. If Mangala can prove a trusty partner to Kompany then City are the stronger.
Midfield: The midfield for both teams is simply incredible. They are also very similar in terms of style and balance. The addition of Fabregas makes Chelsea’s edge it for me.
Attack: Costa v Aguero. Costa is the current top scorer with 7 goals from 4 games however Chelsea have had a kinder start to the campaign. The two former Atletico Madrid front-men are tied in my opinion.
Summary: A stalemate.
The best eleven with who’s left:
Pellegrini has mentioned that he thinks “the best thing is to have two players for each position” so there is no real surprise when I created this team at how strong it was. You could argue that the “B team” of both clubs could be challenging for a Champions League spot!
Goalkeeper: It’s fairly standard to have a strong backup keeper to challenge and keep pressure on the Number 1. Cech and Caballero are certainly that. Once again I have to give this position a tie.
Defence: I struggled to create a four at the back system for Chelsea although the versatility of Azpilicueta and Ivanovic may have influenced Mourinho’s thinking. The City defence is the clear winner.
Midfield: Chelsea’s midfield replacements offers Mourinho plenty of choice in different departments, and likewise for Pellegrini. I think City edges it although it’s very difficult to decide.
Attack: Dzeko has been scoring goals whenever he’s been called upon, despite his opportunities quite often from the bench. Remy is a new addition who Mourinho has chosen to replace Torres as his “third striker” and has already got off to a great start. A draw.
Summary: Both teams have a tremendous amount of depth available within their squads, however Manchester City are my winners.
The two clubs will be playing in the Champions League on Wednesday, with City facing Bayern away and Chelsea entertaining Schalke at Stamford Bridge. It will be interesting to see if the teams will rotate their squads to rest key players for Sunday’s game, as I’m intrigued to see where the manager’s priorities lie. The last meeting was at the Eithad where Chelsea snatched a 1-0 away win, but I can’t see it being that easy this time. As mentioned, I consider the starting elevens of the two to be equally matched so it may come down more to the tactics of the managers and the luck on the day. The attacking talent of both sides promise to make this an occasion to savour and there should be a few quality goals from both sides who have both only had the one clean sheet each four games in.
The match on Sunday will be a good test to see how they both deal with each other, but it’s important to note that the title won’t be awarded on the two Chelsea and City encounters. My pre-season predictions have been fairly accurate so far – although Villa have been a surprise! I’ll stick with Chelsea as my champions. Yes City do have the best depth of the two clubs, but Chelsea now look the finished article.
You may enjoy checking out my pre-season predictions, and my transfer round-ups for each club. Finally I’m still looking for feedback on this new theme I’m trying out, so I’d really appreciate it if you could provide your thoughts 🙂
Thanks for reading!