This could be a considered a meeting of two managers destined to find themselves out of work once the season comes to a close. Roberto Mancini’s fate has been the subject of intense discussion since Manchester City’s shock defeat at Southampton two weeks ago left them cast adrift from Manchester United at the top. The Italian appears to be on borrowed time at the Etihad Stadium and knows delivering the Premier League title is the only possible solution to holding onto his job. But by the time they kick off against Chelsea on Sunday they could be 15 points behind United, who play QPR a day earlier. Should they manage to wrestle the title away from their local rivals it would count as an even greater accomplishment to the one that saw them pip their greatest foes to the post last season. A repeat of their limp display on the South Coast last time out will almost certainly hammer another nail into Mancini’s coffin.
Much like his Italian counterpart Rafael Benitez is another manager expected to meet a grisly end at the campaigns conclusion. Chelsea’s interim boss was an unpopular appoint amongst the clubs support but in a strange twist could end up delivering two trophies to Stamford Bridge. Despite turning in below-par performances against Brentford in the FA Cup and Sparta in the Europa League the club are still in with a genuine chance of winning both competitions. Whether that will be enough to save Benitez from Roman Abramovich’s axe remains to be seen. Stealing second spot from City would go some way to convincing the Russian billionaire to refrain from giving him the boot and victory at the Etihad Stadium would reduce the gap to a solitary point.
Vincent Kompany could sit out a fifth successive game if he doesn’t shake off a calf injury, while Gareth Barry is struggling with an ankle knock.
Rafael Benitez may recall Demba Ba, Ashley Cole, Eden Hazard, Branislav Ivanovic, David Luiz and Frank Lampard after they sat out the Europa League win on Thursday.
What the managers said…
“It’s difficult to win all 12 games in a row in the Premier League but we will try. Our target is to win the Premier League, not to finish second. We want to try to win trophies. Sometimes it’s not possible, but it’s important our team is always there on the top and fights for the title. Sometimes we can do a mistake or sometimes the other team could be better than us. This is possible.” Roberto Mancini insists Manchester City aren’t playing for second place (Manchester Evening News)
“We have to go there with confidence and if we are close we can fight for being in the top two. And if not we have to fight for being in the top four. The priority is to win; if we win this game we will be closer but if we cannot we have to keep fighting. What I can see now is a team with confidence, we are confident we can beat City or anyone if we do things in the right way. The race for the top four will go on until the end of the season. Our last game is against Everton so I’m sure that, until the end of the season, we will be winning games or losing games or whatever but it will be very tight, very close. I think that one game can make a big difference so until the end it will be difficult for everyone.” Rafael Benitez believes Chelsea can finish in the top two if they beat Manchester City (BBC Sport)
Pre-Match Statistic: Five of the last eight competitive meetings between the two sides have been won by Manchester City
Prediction: Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea