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Man City Vs Chelsea: An EPL Blockbuster That'll Eventually Be Decided By Battle Of The Belgians



In what appears to be an absolute cracker of a game, defending champions Chelsea will take on current leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge today. While it's surely an early summit meeting between the two powerhouses of Premier League, both sides will be aiming to land a psychological blow in the title race, this season.

Antonio Conte's Blues have recovered from their opening-day shock against Burnley to rise to third, while leaders Manchester City have caught the eye with their impressive scoring spree so far. A huge clash at the top of the table, today's encounter pits two in-form teams against each other.

City PlayersReuters

It's an odd one for City, because one game over the course of the season will not define who takes the title. In both of their recent Premier League-winning campaigns, City lost at Stamford Bridge. However, there's an underlying issue with Guardiola's team in that, they've not had a great record against their rivals for some time now.

City haven't beaten any team that went on to finish alongside them in the top four since December 2014, which demonstrates how poor they've been against their rivals for a while. In that sense, today's match perhaps carries more weight for the visitors - especially following the 5-0 win over Liverpool earlier in the season.

Conte & MorataReuters

Chelsea's 3-1 win at the Etihad stadium was perhaps the first time when everyone started to take Conte's side seriously last season. That game was won on the backfoot with clinically incisive counter-attacks that imbued a confidence in the squad that they never relinquished.

Another win today, especially coming off the back of a victory in Madrid, would certainly see expectations surge among the players and the fans. Today's result will not dictate the title race, but it will surely deliver a psychological blow to the losing side and provide considerable momentum to the winners.

Dirty Blues

City PlayersReuters

Man City and Chelsea are undeniably the top contenders in the Premier League title race, but despite leading the charts, the two EPL giants are also the most ill-disciplined teams this season and among the worst offenders in the top flight.

Both the teams are clear at the top of the FA's fair play table this season after an opening two months littered by red and yellow cards. City have collected 16 bookings and two red cards in their opening seven matches (including all first team competitive games), making them the worst-behaved team in the top flight on 84 disciplinary points.

If City are leading the charts, Conte's side isn't far behind, in fact, the Blues are just two points adrift from their opponents on the second spot in the infamous list. In the seven games so far,  Chelsea was witnessed its players receive 12 yellow cards and three send-offs.

Going by the statistics, Saturday's clash should be no different. In a bid to gain an upperhand early in the season, we won't be surprise to see the two giants playing a bit dirty.

Battle Of The Belgians

Eden HazardReuters

Teammates on the national side, today's clash pits Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne - match-winners for their respective sides - against each other. There are currently 16 Premier League players who've represented Belgium in the last calendar year alone, yet none are close to being labelled as Belgium's star attractions - a compliment reserved for Hazard and De Bruyne.

De Bruyne is clearly a midfielder rather than a forward, even more so considering Guardiola has shifted him deeper to become a No. 8 rather than a No. 10. Operating from a deeper position, De Bruyne ability to pick out players is what has made City so lethal this season. He has orchestrated numerous attacks which saw City score 21 goals in just six games - also the league's best attack.

If De Bruyne is the string-puller for City, then Hazard, irrespective of the game-time this season, is undoubtedly the obvious source of creativity for Chelsea. Unlike his teammate, Hazard is more of a forward than a midfielder, and the 3-5-1-1 system used by Conte in the midweek victory at Atletico Madrid means he's essentially becoming used more as a support striker.

Both Belgians are genuine attacking all-rounders and, in today's clash, the two creative geniuses will once again lead the charge for their respective sides as the two fellow countrymen shed national colours in favour of club loyalties.

Defensive Resilience

Ilkay GundoganReuters

Both City and Chelsea boast an effective attacking line. Summer signing from Real Madrid, Alvaro Morata has been Chelsea's main source of goals so far. He's bagged four in the last week and his partnership with Hazard against Atletico Madrid showed early signs of promise. On the other hand, the fact that Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have all scored more than five goals this season, shows what City's front-line is capable of.

But, despite their attacking prowess, it's the defensive resilience that could possibly decide the fate of this fixture. With both teams prolific in attack, it is likely to cause problems at either sides of the goals. And, this is where, a team that ends up containing the opposition is likely to have a say on the result.

Against Jesus and Sterling, Chelsea's rearguard is likely to be tested in the absence of David Luiz. The Brazilian will complete his three-match suspension for his dismissal against Arsenal, so Antonio Rudiger or Andreas Christensen can be expected to start. In the six EPL games, Conte's backline has been five times this season.

As ridiculed as City's defence has been, don't write them off so quickly. The Cityzens might be missing their 52-million-pound defender Benjamin Mendy, but the fact that they have conceded just two goals, has given them a goal difference of plus-19. Contrary to popular belief, City actually boast of a joint-best defence with Manchester United, this season.

If Guardiola is considered a shrewd tactician, Conte is capable of pulling off a tactical masterclass. If Chelsea have the know-how, City have the weaponry to steamroll their opponents. While it's hard to call this one - given the star-studded line-ups, the football fanatics should be the ultimate winners, for there will be talent, skill, excitement and unparalleled entertainment.


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