If we ignore the bizarre nine months that was last season -- Leicester who? -- here we have a top of the table showdown between England's two biggest heavyweights, the two "new-money" teams (they are not the only new-money teams of course) hellbent on destroying the grand tradition that is the massive 1992 cashgrab known as the Premier League. Or are we saving it? City, winners of the league in 2014 and Chelsea, winners of the league in 2015, both frolicking in the space vacated by the drastic fall from grace of Manchester United (and Arsenal and Liverpool before then).
But last season did happen, we're fairly certain, which means that it's two teams looking to prove that last season was indeed just a hiccup. City finished fourth and almost missed the Champions League. Chelsea finished tenth and let's never mention that again. Or let's, because Antonio Conte has engineered a near-miraculous turnaround, not just from last season but from the start of this season as well. Seven wins in a row have catapulted Chelsea to the top of the heap, and suddenly everyone's talking tactics and three-man defenses instead of Little Horses and #Campaigns.
It's all been rather glorious. It could come crashing down any day, as things in modern football apparently can, but even if Chelsea lose this one (as the odds would tell us), it should not destroy the overall progress that's been made over the last couple months.
Win or lose, the title won't be decided today. One game does not a season make. But both sides will believe they can win it (both this game and the league), which will make for a fun, fascinating, absolutely terrifying encounter.
Date / Time: Saturday, December 3, 2016, 12:30 GMT; 7:30am EST; 6pm IST
Venue: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England
Referee: Anthony Taylor -- Mr. Taylor's back for the third time this season; he was in charge on opening day as well as for the Hull City match, which kickstarted this whole winning streak. Talk about providence, if said streak is about to come an end...
Forecast: Sunny but cold
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBCSN, NBC Univeso (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, NBC Universo Now, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Star Sports (India)
Manchester City team news: Beyond just the obvious top of the table proximity, there are almost too many narratives to count in this one. The battle of two new coaches, a battle of contrasting styles, a battle between Aguero and Costa (tied for the league lead with ten goals each), a battle between Hazard and De Bruyne (who's the best Belgian; not to mention KDB's past history with the Blues), maybe even a battle between resurrected Yaya and resurrected Matic, and so on and so forth. There will be drama.
Where there is no drama is in the treatment room, with veteran club captain Vincent Kompany, who's more injury than man these days, the only significant casualty. There's even parallels here, with veteran club captain John Terry also sidelined for Chelsea with yet another injury.
As usual, City are a fantastic team, loaded with attacking and midfield talent. There's weakness in the back and at full-back, but keeping the likes of Aguero, De Bruyne, Silva, and Sterling (plus Nolito and Sane off the bench) contained will not be easy, to say the least. Meanwhile, two of Fernandinho, Gundogan, or Yaya Toure are likely to play, and they will be strong in any combination.
That said, the Citizens have slumped to a few disappointing results lately, including a six-match winless streak in October, a recent draw against Middlesbrough, and narrow, one-goal wins over Burnley and Crystal Palace. Since beating Barcelona 3-1 at the start of November, City have won two and drawn two, scoring six and conceding four. That's a far cry from the early season multi-goal dominance when they were wiping the floor with any and all opponents.
Chelsea team news: Conte's magic formula (the 3-4-3, if you will) has yet to stop working, even when pressed and harried as it was last weekend by a fired up Spurs outfit. Despite falling behind, Chelsea did not lose the plot. They held strong, got a moment of magic from Pedro and were off and running. The system has now won games from the front foot, the back foot, and any and all other foots in between. Rabbit's foot? Sure. Fruit by the foot? Get in there.
The lineup is settled, the plans are set, the challenge is clear. Chelsea have beaten City just five times (and only once at the Etihad) in the last 18 meetings, losing twice as many in that seven-year span. (And one of those wins was against what was essentially a youth team in the FA Cup.) It's a record that not many teams (if any?) can boast against Chelsea.
This is a statement game as much as the games against Manchester United and Tottenham were, and perhaps even more so. There's obviously meaning beyond just the bragging rights, and while, as mentioned above, this one game really will not decide anything in the grand scheme of things, a win for Chelsea would be a massive boost as far as expectations are concerned.
Previously: One of my favorite goals of recent times, from Chelsea's last win (and only other win since 2008) at the Etihad in 2014, when the Blues hit the post three times and David Luiz played midfield.