Chelsea v Manchester City – Match Preview
Both clubs have had weeks they would rather forget, City bundled out of the Champions League before the knockout stages and Chelsea close to elimination after disappointing midweek results.
The fall-out was particularly savage in west London, with Roberto Di Matteo – just six months removed from guiding the club to their greatest ever triumph in lifting the Champions League – sacked in favour of former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez after their 3-0 loss to Juventus.
Chelsea still have a chance to reach the knockout stages, if they beat Nordsjaelland at home on matchday six and Juventus lose to Shakhtar Donetsk.
Nevertheless, the latest European defeat saw Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich dismiss Di Matteo, with a laboured 3-2 home win over Shakhtar their only victory from the past five matches in all competitions.
In the league, Chelsea’s form has been particularly average, with 1-1 draws against Swansea and Liverpool followed by a 2-1 defeat at West Brom, leaving the early-season pace-setters in third spot, four points behind leaders City.
Further north in Manchester, Roberto Mancini’s City side have at least been keeping up appearances domestically while their European dream slipped away.
City sit top of the Premier League standings, one point clear of arch-rivals Manchester United, after 12 games played. They were held to a 1-1 draw by Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday, ending their hopes of making the last 16 of the Champions League.
They could still qualify for the Europa League by finishing third in the group, but one wonders what incentive Mancini has for wanting his squad tied up mid-week during what is sure to be a tight tussle at the top of the league table.
Both managers have fitness concerns ahead of the crunch match, with City captain Vincent Kompany reportedly leaving the stadium on crutches after the draw against Real Madrid.
He joins Gael Clichy (ankle), Micah Richards (knee) and Mario Balotelli (back) on the injury list at Eastlands.
For Chelsea, captain John Terry is still bothered by a knee injury, Frank Lampard is slowly returning to fitness after a calf problem while Daniel Sturridge also missed the Juventus match because of a hamstring injury.
Prediction: Chelsea 1 – 1 Manchester City