Manchester City visit Stamford Bridge for a date with Chelsea as both teams will be battling for the three points at stake in an attempt to challenge Liverpool for the top spot after both sides lost grounds due to postponement and defeats respectively
The match, cast into question when COVID-19 forced City to close facilities and postpone Monday’s game at Everton, is set to go ahead after the visitors returned to training on Wednesday.
Surging infections in London and the postponement on Wednesday of Tottenham Hotspur’s match at Fulham, Chelsea’s West London neighbours, raised doubts but the Premier League is confident fixtures can go ahead.
“Safety remains our number one priority, and the club will continue to proceed with great caution,” City said in a statement.
“The bubble will undergo further testing in the coming days, the results of which will inform and dictate the next steps.”
On the pitch, eighth-placed City will be chasing a third successive league win while Chelsea need to turn around a run of poor form that includes three defeats and a draw in their last five games.
“At the moment, they are a crisis club because they are underperforming,” former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton told BBC radio after the West Londoners drew 1-1 with Aston Villa and slipped to sixth.
“They are flat and that’s why Manager Frank Lampard needs to get a few wins under his belt and extremely quickly because it can, as we know, turn ugly at Chelsea.”
Meanwhile, Manchester City number one choice goalkeeper, Ederson is a major doubt for the match as he is self-isolating after the club’s raft of positive Covid-19 tests.
The Brazilian has confirmed on social media that he is undergoing his mandatory time alone, days after it was announced at least five City players had the virus.
It is likely to rule him out of the matches against Chelsea tomorrow and Manchester United in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
USA goalkeeper Zack Steffen is expected to deputise for Ederson in his absence.
However, Chelsea star Hakim Ziyech appears to be winning his race to be fit for the side’s heavyweight clash with Manchester City after being pictured with the rest of his team-mates in training on Thursday.
Ziyech missed the start of the campaign after suffering a knee injury in pre-season following his summer move from Ajax and the 27-year-old’s frustrations continued earlier this month as he was forced off with a thigh problem in Chelsea’s win over Leeds.
However, speaking after the Blues’ draw with Aston Villa, Lampard said he was confident Ziyech would be available to take on City, should the much-anticipated Premier League encounter get the go-ahead this weekend. ‘I don’t think it’s a coincidence,’ Lampard said when asked whether there was a strong correlation between Ziyech’s absence and Chelsea’s poor form. ‘You can’t rely completely on it. But with Hakim, the way he was playing, he was very effective in terms of assists, chance creation, and we were very fluid at the time when he got injured against Leeds.
Tottenham Hotspur will be aiming to kick off the New Year on the right foot when they welcome Leeds United to North London for today’s Premier League encounter.
The visitors trounced West Bromwich Albion 5-0 in midweek, whereas Tottenham’s clash with Fulham was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak in the Cottagers’ camp.
The visit of Fulham would have represented the perfect opportunity for Tottenham to return to winning ways and end the year on a high note, but as was the case with numerous fixtures in midweek, that London derby had to be called off after Fulham reported several coronavirus cases.
On the other hand, Jose Mourinho’s men would have been thankful for a few more days of rest after a gruelling encounter with Wolverhampton Wanderers, in which the Spurs manager set his team up to defend and did not reap the rewards.
Spurs have since slipped out of the title race amid an underwhelming spell of form, and that draw with Wolves stretched their winless run in the top flight to four matches since a 2-0 North London derby win over Arsenal earlier this month.
Having been neck-and-neck with Liverpool for the majority of the campaign so far, Mourinho’s side now find themselves seven points adrift of the champions, although a place in the top four was still within their reach before Manchester United, Aston Villa and Everton took to the pitch yesterday.
Meanwhile, West Bromwich Albion’s rear guard produced a stellar performance to restrict Liverpool to a solitary goal last weekend, but the Baggies defence was breached all too easily by Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds.
Aside from their narrow 1-0 over Burnley last weekend, Leeds simply do not do low-scoring affairs, and Bielsa’s talented attacking contingent are sure to fancy their chances against a Spurs side who have become renowned for sitting back.
However, Leeds’ defensive frailties are very much still there – West Brom are the only team to have shipped more goals than the Whites this season – but the 30 strikes that Bielsa’s men have chalked up at the correct end of the field can only be bettered by Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Leeds have risen to 11th in the table after taking nine points from their last four matches, and should West Ham suffer defeat at Everton last Friday, the Whites would leapfrog the capital outfit if they can at least hold Spurs to a draw today.