Manchester City will look to extend their perfect Premier League home record this season when they defend top spot against third-placed Chelsea on Monday.
City, who went top of the table with a crushing 5-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, host Chelsea after Jose Mourinho’s team were held 0-0 at home by West Ham United in a London derby on Wednesday.
If you believe the bookmakers, it is either Manchester City or Chelsea who will win the Premier League this season and it is still quite conceivable at this point.
Pellegrini’s title contenders are unbeaten in their last 20 games in all competitions, winning 17 and drawing three.
Few leave the Etihad without a mauling these days and the in-form side go into this match with the added spice of revenge on the agenda.
In the reverse fixture, breakdown in communications between goalkeeper Joe Hart and central defender Matija Nastasic allowed Torres to pounce and send Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho into the crowd in celebration.
Images of the calamity will be fresh in the memory of City players, and they will be desperate to put things right with a victory.
Mourinho, on the other hand, seemed happy to play for a draw at Old Trafford and the Emirates earlier this season and it will be fascinating to see if he is more daring away to another major rival.
At the present time one would not expect the Portuguese boss to take chances against this merciless City side. Not unless they want to end up like United, Arsenal, and Tottenham, who have already suffered heavy defeats at the Etihad this term.
The makings of this clash point to a big possibility that Chelsea will adopt the infamous ‘park the bus’ tactic to thwart the danger posed by City when in full flight.
Do not be surprised if you see Samuel Eto’o is a defensive striker in a 4-5-1 formation with David Luiz, Nemanja Matic and Obi Mikel playing behind the Cameroonian.
With both sides in good form, and Chelsea only three points behind the league leaders, expect this clash of the titans encounter to be a close run affair.
Yaya Toure vs David Luiz
How do you solve a problem like Yaya Toure? It’s a question Mourinho will have been asking himself from the moment the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge on Wendesday night.
Between Luiz’s aggression and Ramires’ energy, Mourinho will need to find a way of reining in Toure’s influence if Chelsea are to succeed.
Luiz is one of the players in the Chelsea team who can physically match up to the Ivorian, who will attempt to drive through the heart of the Blues’ team using his size and power.
Toure has profited from having Fernandinho by his side, becoming more expansive in his game, with greater freedom to roam and influence matches higher up the field.
If the Brazilian can keep him quiet and not give away many cheap fouls and free-kicks, then it means he can effectively break up one of the main supply lines through to the City strikers.
Expect to see a very physical battle from two powerful players.
City’s star striker Sergio Aguero is sidelined after suffering a hamstring injury in Wednesday’s 5-1 trashing of Tottenham and is expected to be out for a month.
Otherwise, Manuel Pellegrini has a near fully fit squad to pick from with the likes of Alvaro Negredo, David Silva and Fernandinho set to feature.
The Chilean is likely to include some variation of James Milner, Jesus Navas, Edin Dzeko and Toure in his lineup.
As for the visitors, Fernando Torres (knee) remains sidelined but there could be a first league start for Nemanja Matic since he returned to the club from Benfica.
It is unclear, however, if new signing Mohammed Salah will be playing any part in this fixture while Dutch youngster Marco Van Ginkel remains a long-term casualty.
Total Games: 139 Man City Wins: 46 Chelsea Wins: 56 Draws: 37
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City – October 27 2013, Stamford Bridge
Torres capitalised on a last-minute calamity in City’s defence to give Chelsea victory at Stamford Bridge.
The match had been heading towards a draw after Aguero cancelled out Andre Schurrle’s opener but the 90th minute strike from the Spain striker, guided the Blues to a precious three points and lifted them to second in the table.
This has all the makings of an engrossing battle from a tactical standpoint.
Tackles will fly in, and both teams will be looking to stamp their authority in the midfield area in an attempt to then get their creative players on the ball.
If Chelsea can find a way to stop Toure and restrict City’s supply line in midfield, then they stand a chance of gaining at least a point.
Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea