Chelsea host Manchester City on Saturday evening in what could well end up being one of the most important games of the season.
Both sides go into the game in form and on the back of midweek Champions League wins. City’s advantage of playing their European game at home could well be evened out by Chelsea’s euphoria at a last-gasp Michy Batshuayi winner away in Madrid. Both, though, look more than capable of winning the title this year.
It’s early in the season, but it still feels like this game could be one of the most meaningful of the year. Victory for either side would galvanise teams who have come in for criticism at various points so far this season. City for their defence: they might have the best defensive record in the league, but last season’s frailties haven’t left the collective memory.
And Chelsea for their summer: Antonio Conte seemed frustrated at the club’s lack of transfer activity, and the signings they did make haven’t wholly convinced just yet, but it looks like they probably will.
That makes this huge. Victory for either side would give them an edge in the title race, of course, but more importantly, it could end up derailing the other side at a point in the season where momentum is built.
Recently, this has been a tight fixture, closely fought between two top sides. Only once have they seemed like pure title rivals – back in 2014/15 when Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea won the league ahead of Manuel Pellegrini’s City.
Traditionally, though, this hasn’t been a close fixture in the Premier League years. Chelsea have, unsurprisingly, had the best of it, winning 24 of the league games between the two. City have only won nine, whilst the vast majority of games at Stamford Bridge have ended in Chelsea wins.
That, of course, has changed somewhat since 2008, when City’s Abu Dhabi takeover saw them join Chelsea as part of football’s moneyed elite. Since then, the balance of power has been more even, but Chelsea have won the league twice since the lighter variety of Blues have lifted the trophy.
Despite City’s struggles at the Bridge – where they have won just twice since the turn of the millennium – one of the seminal moments in City’s history came in west London.
Roberto Mancini’s City travelled to Chelsea in 2010 where the game was overshadowed by John Terry’s refusal to shake Wayne Bridge’s hand before the game. But it was a huge moment for City: they beat Chelsea 4-2, winning a game which won’t be remembered as the moment City announced themselves thanks to non-footballing trivia, but it certainly should go down as a big game in the club’s history. Goals from Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy won the game for City, and the next season they’d finish third and win the FA Cup.
Given Chelsea’s dominance over City in this fixture in the Premier League era, perhaps its not surprising that it’s a Chelsea legend who comes out as top scorer.
Frank Lampard terrorised plenty of Premier League defences over the course of his career, so it should be expected that his late runs into the box caused problems for City over the years, too.
Frank Lampard’s short stay at City doesn’t qualify him for hero status at the Manchester club, even if City fans did appreciate what he brought to the team for a season.
Instead, the shared hero both City and Chelsea fans have an affection for is Nicolas Anelka. The Frenchman played for both clubs, spending two and a half years in Manchester and scoring prolifically, managing 45 goals in all competitions, and almost single-handedly keeping City in the Premier League with goals in a struggling side.
At Chelsea, Anelka played in a much different team, but scored just as consistently. In his first full season at the club, 2008/09, he bagged 25 goals in all competitions, his best tally ever as the Blues won the FA Cup. They repeated the feat the followng season, and added the Premier League title, too with Anelka playing a vital role.