Watch Manchester City v Chelsea live on Sky Sports 1 at 4pm on Sunday
It’s tough at the top – Manuel Pellegrini can vouch for that.
Having guided Manchester City to the Premier League title last season, his second campaign in charge hasn’t started too brightly, with the Citizens failing to win any of their first three domestic fixtures.
During midweek, City lost their opening Champions League match, too. No disgrace in being beaten by Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena, granted, but things aren’t about to get any easier for the Sky Blues, with a deeper shade of blue descending on the Etihad this weekend.
Chelsea will be in town on Sunday and, though the season is still very much in its infancy, Jose Mourino’s men look the side most likely to assume the crown that City currently wear this time round. Blue is the colour, but it’s royal rather than sky blue that is flying highest at present.
Indeed, Chelsea have won their opening three Premier League games in the manner of champions. The highlight so far has undoubtedly been how well summer recruits Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa have integrated into the side.
Mourinho was relentless in his pursuit of Costa prior to prising him away from Ateltico Madrid in July. But even the ‘Special One’ must be surprised by how quickly the Spanish international has adapted to life in the English top-flight.
The 25-year-old has already scored seven times for the Blues and looks the complete striker. He was left out of Chelsea’s 1-1 midweek draw with Schalke in the Champions League due to a niggling hamstring problem, but is expected to start against City at the Etihad nevertheless.
Costa is generally a 5/1 shot in the first goalscorer market. His opposite number, Sergio Aguero, is also available at 5s in the same market, but is as short as 4/1 with bet365.
The Citizens showed real mettle when gaining a draw against Arsenal at the Emirates last weekend, and they won 15 of their 17 home games in the Premiership last season. But one of the 17 matches in question that they lost was against Chelsea.
In fact, the west London outfit secured 16 points from a possible 18 in clashes with other top four sides during the 2013-14 campaign, and they beat City home and away. When it comes to the big games, Chelsea rise to the occasion.
City will be, to a large extent, pinning their hopes on Aguero being at his brilliant best. The Argentinian once again showed how deadly he is in front of goal when striking against Arsenal last weekend, but Pellegrini will also be hoping that talismanic midfielder Yaya Toure is on-song.
The Ivory Coast international did not cover himself in glory in Germany on Wednesday, consistently failing to track back and muck in defensively when Bayern had City on the back foot. Given Chelsea’s attacking prowess, there will be times in this match when the home side will need all hands on deck, including Toure’s.
Manchester City v Chelsea betting advice
City and Chelsea still have defensive frailties which offers hope that this will be a high-scoring affair. But, in all probability, neither club will take chances due to sheer mutual respect. And I’m expecting the ball to spend a lot of time in the middle of the park, an area where the two sides are very evenly matched.
If there is a winner on Sunday, I reckon it’ll be Chelsea, and at 85/40 with BetVictor the away win is a tempting option. I certainly can’t envisage the visitors being beaten but, equally, there’s a strong chance that they’ll end up cancelling each other out for 90 minutes.
Consequently, the recommendation is under 1.5 goals at 31/10, a price also offered by BetVictor. It’s a risk, sure, but City have yet to concede until the sixty-third minute in Premier League matches so far this season, while the Blues will undoubtedly aim to keep things tight in the first 45 minutes.
If one side is to prevail, it’ll probably be a solitary late goal that separates them.