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Chelsea vs. Manchester City, Premier League: Opposition Analysis

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Is this the best team ever?

Manchester City v AFC Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Season So Far

Pep Guardiola once described the La Liga points totals accrued by his Barcelona side and their Real Madrid counterparts as “fucking barbaric”. The highest points total Guardiola’s epochal Barça side got was 99. Last season, Manchester City finished with 100. If City keep their current form up, they will finish this season on 104.

Not even in the Bundesliga, long held up as the clearest example of a one-horse major league, did Guardiola enjoy such dominance. So huge is the gulf between them and the rest of the top six, let alone the rest of the division, that the question is now being asked: are Man City so good that they’re bad for the Premier League?

They’ve won 13 of their 15 games. They’ve scored three or more goals in more than half of them. Their goal difference is bigger than any other team’s ‘Goals For’ column. It’s two months since they even drew a game. Liverpool have made their best ever start – to emphasise, that’s their best start in 126 years – and they’re still two points behind City.

In short: we are talking about one of the best teams ever assembled.

The Season Ahead

It would be one of the all-time great shocks were Manchester City didn’t win the Premier League this season. It’s almost unthinkable. Even with Liverpool having the best season in their entire history, most bookmakers have City around 1/5 to retain their title. No-one would be surprised if at least one domestic cup was added to that.

It’s starting to look like their first competitive games of the season will be in the Champions League knockout stages. That said, they’ve already suffered a couple of weird pratfalls against Lyon – losing at home and drawing away – so maybe their European adventure won’t be as much of a procession as one would expect.

Tactics

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Strengths

Man City are first – and comfortably – in the tables for: points; expected points; goals; expected goals; open play goals; expected goals against; shots; shots on target; shots on target against; possession; pass completion percentage; accurate short passes; dribbles; time spent in opposition’s final third; least time in their own final third.

Weaknesses

Messi still plays for Barcelona, so there will always be at least one obvious area of potential improvement, while the midfield isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as the Busquets/Xavi/Iniesta triumvirate.

Expected XIs

Sergio Agüero is carrying a knock and Kevin De Bruyne is still out with a long-term injury, so it won’t be a 100% City that Chelsea face. Pep may have to field a couple of old duffers called ‘Gabriel Jesus’ and ‘İlkay Gündoğan’. …oh dear.

As for Chelsea, the side basically picks itself, even after the midweek shock in Wolverhampton. The only issue is whether David Luiz has lost everyone’s trust (again).

Prediction

Maurizio Sarri’s record against Guardiola consists of highly entertaining, tactically intriguing defeats. Expect that trend to continue here unless Eden Hazard has one of those days.