Manchester City is in an unfamiliar spot. The two-time defending champions and odds-on preseason favorite to win the Premier League are eight points behind Arsenal (with a game in hand) almost halfway into the season.
It’s not an insurmountable gap by any stretch and City are still odds-on to win the title, but the Cityzens need to close the gap before it gets too late.
Thursday’s match at Chelsea feels like a must-win for Pep Guardiola and Man City starting a 3 p.m. ET on Peacock.
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Manchester City vs. Chelsea prediction
As important a game as this is for Manchester City, it’s also vital for Chelsea, who have fallen all the way down to 10th place and look increasingly likely to miss out on not only the top-four, but the top-six as well. The Blues have endured a tumultuous campaign with an ownership change, a managerial swap and a number of transfers, but it’s inexcusable for a team this talented to sit in the middle of the table.
And what’s even more concerning is that Chelsea’s poor record is not a fluke. The Blues are 7-4-5 (W-D-L) with a +2 goal differential through 16 matches, but their expected goal (xG) difference is -3.1. In other words, you could make a salient argument that Chelsea have been slightly lucky this season.
It was never going to be an easy transition for the Blues to go from Thomas Tuchel to Graham Potter and a 10-match sample is not large enough to judge Potter on, but there are some concerning trends developing at Stamford Bridge.
Since Potter took over, Chelsea have gone 4-3-3 with a +3 goal differential and a -2.5 xG difference. Perhaps most worrying is that the team’s performances are getting worse, not better. Chelsea have won just two of their last seven matches in all competitions and are coming off a worrying draw to Nottingham Forest in which they lost on xG, 1.4 to 0.9. It was the fourth time in their last five matches that the Blues lost on xG to their opponents.
City are coming off a worrying draw themselves, but that result came down to a moment of magic and some incredible defending from Everton more than anything the Cityzens did.
Aside from the gap between them and Arsenal, there’s nothing alarming for City, who have created 6.0 expected goals in their first two matches out of the World Cup break.
City’s attack seems to be in fine form, while Chelsea are trending in the wrong direction and are struggling to keep teams like Nottingham Forest at bay. There’s a clear path to a City rout here and getting +170 on the Cityzens to win by at least two goals seems a wise bet on Thursday.
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Manchester City vs. Chelsea pick
Manchester City -1.5 (+170, Caesars Sportsbook)