High Stakes as Man City Welcome Chelsea to Etihad

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Kante (in dark blue) scored the opening goal for Chelsea in a 2-0 victory over City in December

Demola Ojo

Manchester City face a tough test in the title race as Chelsea visit the Etihad Sunday. The champions are three points behind league leaders Liverpool but will return to the summit with victory Sunday.

On the other hand, Chelsea need to avoid defeat to return to fourth place after being supplanted by Manchester United Saturday.

Chelsea beat City 2-0 earlier this season at Stamford Bridge so Man City manager Pep Guardiola knows his side is in for a tough game.

“You see the midfield players, the strikers, the best strikers in the world are there.

“The midfield players are the best in the world. A good keeper. Experienced defenders. Good organisation defensive, offensive. They know exactly what they want to do.

“I have a lot of respect. The game on Sunday (today) is a final for us. I want to feel that it’s an absolute final for us and we need to play in that way.”

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea were the first team to beat Manchester City domestically this season with that win in December.

Sarri says Chelsea cannot win the Premier League but are aiming for a top-four finish, before suggesting Manchester City are the best team in Europe.

“At the moment Manchester City are the best team in Europe. I think we were lucky (in December), because we scored in a very difficult moment of the match. In that match we defended really very well because they had only three goal opportunities, no more.

“It’s not easy against Man City to give them only three, four opportunities. At home, I think they’ve scored 43 goals in 13 matches. More than three on average. We need to defend really very well.”

Manchester City are still without defenders Benjamin Mendy and Vincent Kompany. Left-back Mendy, who has missed the last four games, is being managed carefully as he returns from knee surgery and captain Kompany is still troubled by a muscular problem.

Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo (Achilles) is still out long term but City have no fresh injury concerns.

Meanwhile, Antonio Rudiger could return to Chelsea’s starting line-up at Manchester City. Defender Rudiger was not risked in last week’s 5-0 win over Huddersfield due to a knock, so Andreas Christensen deputised. The Denmark defender is likely to make way.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has been ill, so may not even be among the substitutes.

Man City have lost three of their last five Premier League matches against Chelsea (W2), scoring just four goals and never more than once in this run.

Chelsea have won on just two of their last nine visits to the Etihad in the Premier League (D1 L6), winning 1-0 in February 2014 and 3-1 in December 2016.

City boss Pep Guardiola has lost more league games against Chelsea than he has versus any other team in his managerial career (3).

City striker Sergio Aguero has scored five goals in his last five Premier League appearances versus Chelsea, including netting a hat-trick in April 2016.

Aguero has scored 11 goals in 11 home Premier League games for Manchester City this season, including two hat-tricks. He’s the highest scoring home player in the competition so far this season.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard has had a hand in five goals in his last five games against Man City in the Premier League (3 goals, 2 assists), with the Belgian assisting both of the Blues’ goals in the reverse fixture this term.

50% of N’Golo Kante’s Premier League assists for Chelsea this season have been for Gonzalo Higuain (2/4), despite the pair playing just 148 minutes together.