Manchester City v Chelsea: Back visitors to temporarily topple champions-elect

Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea boss
Tuchel the transformer has turned Chelsea's season around

It would take a terrific and supremely well-organised side to postpone Manchester City's title celebrations. Stephen Tudor believes they're heading to the Etihad this weekend.

"So dramatically have they improved that many have wondered if the Premier League title race would have been such a formality for City had Tuchel come last summer."

Is this weekend's clash at the Etihad between Manchester City and Chelsea a rehearsal for the Champions League final later this month? Can Pep Guardiola's men secure the necessary points on Saturday to guarantee a fifth title in ten years? How informative was the recent meeting of these sides at Wembley, when Chelsea controlled the game throughout to reach a fifth FA Cup final in ten years? Are Thomas Tuchel's Blues the most in-form side in the country right now?

This is a fixture that throws up several questions, all of them highly significant, and the days ahead will reveal a good deal, with PSG and Real Madrid having a big say along the way.

What's more, the unknowns that are soon to be knowns only continue, because if we accept that City will be the team to beat next term and a transformed Chelsea are the most likely to topple them, then surely their imminent encounter will offer up some meaningful clues as to what currently separates these brilliant teams. That's if anything separates them at all.

Chelsea are 3/1 to head south with all three points this weekend


Mutually superb

You may think that we're getting a little ahead of ourselves with that final point but it's hard not to when its acknowledged what Thomas Tuchel has already implemented in a short period at Stamford Bridge.

Prior to his appointment Chelsea looked like world-beaters one week, then were aimless and drab the next. In the subsequent game they'd be somewhere in between.

All of that has changed since the German has arrived. From the get-go the Blues have been consistently excellent, supremely well-organised, and extremely difficult to penetrate, and a feeling strengthens with every impressive result that they are 'only' a prolific goal-scorer shy of becoming the complete package.

Indeed, so dramatically have they improved that many have wondered if the Premier League title race would have been such a formality for City had Tuchel come last summer and this hypothesis cries out for a direct comparison between the teams since he took the reins.

First though, a couple of caveats.

Obviously, what undermines Tuchel's record in the capital is that all of it has been achieved while getting to know his players and installing a new mandate. Guardiola has a five-year head-start on him.

Yet City's stats are compromised too, because in recent weeks they have cruised to an inevitable title, playing weakened teams such is their luxury. Chelsea meanwhile have had to fiercely fight for a top four spot.

Even so, their respective form is illuminating, not to mention mutually superb.

In Tuchel's 23 games in charge Chelsea have won 15 across all competitions, drawn six and lost twice. They have scored 30 goals and conceded just ten.

In that same period, Manchester City have won 20 and lost three. They have scored 50 goals and conceded 16.

What jumps out from these numbers is City's greater potency in front of goal. In the Tuchel era, Chelsea have only exceeded two goals on a single occasion, away to Crystal Palace whereas City have managed this seven times. This means if you fancy the visitors to emerge with the points on Saturday don't reach for the moon. Use our Bet Builder to combine a Chelsea win with 13/20 for under 2.5 goals.

The other notable aspect of course is Chelsea's miserly defence. From Tuchel's opening game at the helm to the present day, his side have conceded a goal every 207 minutes. That's nearly half a season of Line Of Duty between each concession. In a remarkable 79% of his games in the hot-seat Chelsea have kept clean sheets.

Back the parsimonious Pensioners to win 1-0 at a tempting 10/1
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Star men shining bright

If the form of both teams is nigh-on imperious then it stands to reason they each have individuals who are shining right now, putting in vintage displays as the norm.

Christian Pulisic is one such player, with four goals in his last seven appearances. Now injury-free the 22-year-old is finally showing why he is adored Stateside.

Mason Mount meanwhile is troubling goalkeepers with increasing regularity. Under Tuchel the attacking midfielder has found the net every 281 minutes. Prior to that it was every 467.

A word too for Timo Werner who may not be grabbing the headlines as was his mission-statement but who has still been directly involved in more goals this season than any other Chelsea player.

Lastly, it's worth noting that N'Golo Kante always has a magnificent game against City. There is no data to back this up. He just does.

As ever with Chelsea however, for the best value in the goal-scoring market, back a defender. Six of them have notched in the league alone.

Always a threat at set-pieces, Andreas Christensen is 25/1 to score anytime at the Etihad

Heavy rotation

You may have noticed that no Manchester City player was mentioned above and the simple reason for this is because nobody has an earthly clue who will be selected.

For a case in point we only need look back at the FA Cup semi that took place a matter of days after both teams competed in a Champions League quarter-final. Tuchel made just two changes for Wembley. Guardiola made eight.

If the same heavy rotation happens here in similar circumstances then there are concerns for the home side because their peripheral talent have been under-performing of late. Raheem Sterling is struggling to make an impact - though he has stepped things up in the past couple of weeks - while Gabby Jesus continues to have an unhealthy relationship with the offside flag.

Regardless of their result against Real Madrid on Wednesday evening, Chelsea need to win here. A Champions League spot is at stake. City, by comparison, are in no urgent rush to dot the Is and cross the Ts on their title success and should key personnel be fatigued from their continental endeavours they might well be rested.

That ultimately will be the difference in this contest that can be deemed a rehearsal for greater, bigger clashes to come.

Chelsea are 1/3 to secure a top four spot by the season's end

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