By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- Premier League leaders Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium in Game of the Week
- Fulham are the latest to test Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United at Craven Cottage
- Leicester City look to again intervene in the race for the top four, as the Foxes visit Wembley Stadium to face Spurs
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – After overhauling Liverpool to regain the lead at the top of the table, Manchester City host Chelsea in Game of the Week at the Etihad Stadium
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Game of the Week: Manchester City vs Chelsea (Sunday, 16:00)
Niall: A massive week for Manchester City concludes on Sunday as they welcome one of the few teams to get the better of them this season, to the Etihad on Sunday. Chelsea won the reverse fixture 2-0 at Stamford Bridge, and what was special about this match was the way they got the three points. It was almost a rope-a-dope performance from the Blues who invited pressure in the first half before taking the lead through N’Golo Kante before the break. Then in the second half, Maurizio Sarri’s side were the better team and wrapped up the three points through David Luiz.
Many of City’s losses have been very smash and grab, but Chelsea came out of the match deserved winners. With the exception of Lyon in the UEFA Champions League, Chelsea have been arguably the biggest test for Pep Guardiola’s men this term and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that away from home.
The Citizens can remain top for another week if they manage to avenge their earlier loss and after a poor December by their standards, they seem to be back to something close to their best. Wins against Arsenal and Everton have piled the pressure on league leaders Liverpool and another victory against Chelsea will pile even more on their rivals.
Chelsea’s form overall has dipped since these two sides last met and the home advantage is also in favour of the Champions. Chelsea may improve with Gonzalo Higuain up top, but will it be enough to topple Manchester City again? It is unlikely.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Chelsea
Neil: I have to say I was impressed with the impact Higuain made on his full Premier League debut. The Argentine formed an impressive tag team with Eden Hazard, as the Belgium returned former imperious best against Huddersfield Town in his more suited roaming forward role.
Higuain however tends to be the sort of player who can perform against the lesser teams, but against sides of a greater calibre is one to fluff his lines. The former Juventus and Napoli striker could be facing one of those sorts of the afternoons here.
It’s remarkable to see City at the top of the table, only weeks removed from Liverpool having a possible double-digit lead in the title race – with many already having handed the Reds their first Premier League crown after a plus-25-year wait.
As we sit in February with three months of the campaign to go, there will undoubtedly be more twists and turns to come. Will there be any here? I would be surprised. Having won the psychological battle to regain top spot, City will be in no mood to surrender the advantage back to Liverpool and although City have looked jaded over the past week of exertions it should be three points here, as I cannot see the Blues being able to assert their full authority against the champions.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
Niall’s One to Watch: Fulham vs Manchester United (Saturday, 12:30)
With implications at both ends of the table, Fulham vs Manchester United is an one interesting kick off to the weekend’s action. The Red Devils responded to their home draw against Burnley with an win away at Leicester City which further strengthened their top four bid, especially after with Arsenal’s loss against Manchester City. United are now in a position the fans may not have dreamt of a few months ago and the air of positivity has brought the Old Trafford faithful back on side.
Fulham are in the unenvious position of being in the relegation battle, and despite some improved performances under Claudio Ranieri, The Cottagers remain 19th in the table. A surprise win against Manchester United will go a long way towards helping Fulham battle relegation and could serve as a huge confidence boost going forward.
What may help them is the fact that United have a Champions League fixture against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday, so their attention may be divided. That said, the visitors may just have too much firepower for the London side and the three points will likely go back to Old Trafford.
Prediction: Fulham 1-3 Manchester United
Neil’s One to Watch: Tottenham Hotspur vs Leicester City (Sunday 13:30)
After Liverpool continue to drop points, Spurs are seemingly back in the title picture, but that will only be cemented with a positive result against a ruinous Leicester City. The Foxes have been a thorn in the side of many top six sides this season – despite ongoing concerns at the progress made under Claude Puel.
Whilst calls for the Frenchman to be dismissed, the visitors remain a dangerous proposition away from home. Tottenham seem to be navigated their way from choppy waters after an edgy few weeks but this is the sort of game where the Lilywhites could encounter problems without the firepower of Harry Kane.
For the visiting side, Harvey Barnes has been an excellent addition from West Bromwich Albion, and with James Maddison partnering him in midfield it give Puel options in his attack. Leicester have not been able to rely on the goals of Jamie Vardy very often this campaign, but particularly at Wembley with the creativity behind him, Vardy could have a fruitful outing here.
Fernando Llorente is doing his best to replace Kane up front, but the Spaniard is still short of confidence in front of goal. This should be an open game, with both sides playing on the counter-attack with dangerous full-backs across the park. That source of creativity I mooted is going to be vital here, and I rather think this could be the best watch of the weekend. I get the feeling we could see a high-scoring draw, however.
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Leicester City
Premier League Gameweek 26 Game of the Week sees Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium
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