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Manchester City and Chelsea are both good defensively, but they also need the points for different reasons.
Both Teams to Score (-104)
|Manchester City vs Chelsea Information|
|Teams||Manchester City vs Chelsea|
|Location||Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England|
|Time||Saturday, 8 May 2021, 12.30 PM EDT|
|How to watch||NBC Sports|
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It was in the reverse fixture at the beginning of January that Manchester City began their inexorable march towards the Premier League title. Pep Guardiola’s side beat a Chelsea team managed by Frank Lampard 3-1 that day, with their first-half performance a display of dominance from minute one to 45. City had won their previous two matches, but it was the nature of their showing at Stamford Bridge that announced them as title contenders following a sticky start to the season.
There was still considerable work to be done, however. Their win in west London moved them up to the fifth place, but City were still behind Liverpool, Manchester United, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur in the standings. Just three points separated them from West Ham United in 10th. City had been hugely impressive against Chelsea, but consistency is what wins titles and we had to wait and see whether they were capable of it.
Four months on and it is safe to say that the team has passed that test with flying colors. City have taken 51 points from the last 57 available. They have lost just twice in the Premier League, going down to Manchester United and Leeds United at the Etihad. The champions-elect have won every single away game they have contested since the middle of December. And they will soon be celebrating a third Premier League title in four seasons, with many people suspecting a fourth in five years next term.
Victory here would move City onto 83 points and make them uncatchable, even if second-placed Manchester United were to win each of their remaining five matches. Guardiola will be keen to get the title wrapped up as soon as possible, and he will not allow his players to take their eye off the ball despite Tuesday’s victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Chelsea are also in a celebratory mood, having booked their spot in the Champions League final for the first time since 2012. Wednesday’s 2-0 victory over Real Madrid in the second leg of their semi-final was hugely impressive, with Thomas Tuchel’s side unlucky not to have won by a wider margin. They defended stoutly all evening, keeping Madrid at arm’s length throughout, and attacked with intelligence and quality. Even the most ardent of Madrid supporters would struggle to argue that Chelsea did not deserve their win.
There can be no drop-off this weekend, though. City would love to win this game to wrap up the title, but a defeat would only be a minor disappointment. For Chelsea, it could come to be viewed as fatal. Tuchel’s side are just three points clear of fifth-placed West Ham in the race for next season’s edition of the Champions League. Unless the Blues go on to beat City in Istanbul, finishing outside the top four of the Premier League would deny them a spot in Europe’s elite competition for 2020/21.
Chelsea do not have the easiest of run-ins, either. As well as a trip to the soon-to-be champions, they host Arsenal and Leicester in the coming weeks. West Ham and Liverpool – the Reds, with a game in hand, are still in the mix – finish the campaign with more favorable schedules. Avoiding defeat at the Etihad would therefore serve as a major boost to Chelsea’s chances of a top-four finish.
On the face of it, backing both teams to score might seem like a puzzling suggestion given the defensive records boosted by the game’s participants. Guardiola’s side have conceded just 24 goals in their 34 Premier League outings this season. No team in the division can better their tally of 18 clean sheets, a figure which means opponents have failed to score against City in more than 50 percent of their matches.
Chelsea have been equally impressive at the back since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at the helm in January. Remarkably, the Blues have registered 18 shut-outs in 24 of the games the German has taken charge of in all competitions. In seven away encounters in the Premier League, Tuchel’s team have conceded only three goals.
Chelsea have sometimes struggled to break down deep defenses after dominating possession, but they have a good scoring record in the big games. They found the net against City in the FA Cup, in both legs of their semi-final against Real Madrid, and in a way wins at Tottenham and Liverpool.
City, too, have showcased their attacking quality in recent weeks. They scored in both legs against PSG and have found the net in all but one of the last 23 Premier League games they have contested. With both teams needing points for different reasons, back both City and Chelsea to score on Saturday.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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