As Pep Guardiola and Manchester City pick up the pieces from Sunday’s damaging defeat at Liverpool, a glance at the fixture list isn’t going to fill them with cheer.
Having dropped to fourth in the Premier League table and some nine points behind Jurgen Klopp’s men in the title race, City’s next assignment after the international break is against Chelsea.
Frank Lampard’s side are now a point and a place above City in the table and one of the league’s form sides, so it’s far from an easy proposition as Guardiola tries to get things back on track.
We take a closer look at whether Chelsea can pile more misery on City on November 23.
It was a miserable afternoon for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City as they lost to Liverpool
City slipped nine points behind the Premier League leaders following their 3-1 loss at Anfield
It isn’t set to get any easier for City, with third-placed Chelsea their next opponents
MANCHESTER CITY vs CHELSEA
Saturday November 23rd; 5.30pm
Live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League
THE FORM GUIDE
City had been in pretty good form before it all came crashing to a halt at Anfield on Sunday afternoon, winning three consecutive league games since their surprise 2-0 home loss to Wolves on October 6.
But that pales in comparison with Lampard’s Chelsea, who have really hit their stride in recent weeks with six consecutive league victories.
They responded emphatically to the 2-1 home loss to Liverpool on September 22 with wins over Brighton, Southampton, Newcastle, Burnley, Watford and Crystal Palace.
It’s established them amongst the current top four, which now has breathing space from the remainder of the Premier League.
So as City urgently try to return to winning ways, they’re going to run headlong into the division’s form side.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea are the form team in the division after six straight league wins
Question were not only asked of City’s players as they went down to defeat at Anfield, but also their manager.
Guardiola was visibly fuming after two handball calls went against City, angrily confronting the match officials at the final whistle before bizarrely claiming he’d been ‘polite’ afterwards.
It exposed him as a sore and ungracious loser and only heightened the suspicions that he’s going through a similar ‘fourth season syndrome’ as he did at Barcelona.
From his misguided attempts at mind games over Sadio Mane’s diving to freezing Benjamin Mendy out of the matchday squad, question marks are starting to be raised.
Guardiola raged at the match officials after seeing two handball calls go against his team
By contrast, Lampard couldn’t look more at home at Chelsea. After a start that was uncertain at times, things have clicked for his young team.
They’re playing an enjoyable brand of football, the goals are flowing and most of the squad are firing. Lampard has also succeeded in making Chelsea an enjoyable and entertaining team to watch.
They might not necessarily win any silverware this season – really their transfer ban has made sure of that – but progress is being made astonishingly quickly.
Lampard spent a season with City, of course, towards the end of his stellar career but now he’ll be hell bent on beating them at the Etihad. With their momentum at present, Chelsea have every chance.
Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring against Crystal Palace with Christian Pulisic and Willian
City have been plagued by injuries in defence during the early weeks of the season and it’s certainly a mitigating factor to explain the three league defeats so far.
Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko remain sidelined, but the crisis has eased with John Stones playing regularly again. First-choice goalkeeper Ederson should be fit again after a two-week break.
It’s meant that in some games, Fernandinho and even Rodri have been forced to slot in at the back and City have shown more vulnerability than usual.
A team that conceded just 23 league goals in winning the title last season have already shipped 13 in a third of the games with Tottenham, Norwich and Wolves all finding joy against City’s makeshift back line.
Fernandinho is powerless to stop Mohamed Salah doubling Liverpool’s lead on Sunday
Chelsea have improved at the back from the early weeks in which throwing away leads became a nagging concern and they’re certainly a million miles away from the side clobbered 4-0 by Man United on the opening weekend.
Young centre back Fikayo Tomori has looked excellent, while the form of Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta has given Chelsea’s back line an increasingly settled look.
Of course, they’ll have to be at their best given City’s wealth of attacking options, but some of the nervousness that pervaded the early season has undoubtedly vanished.
Fikayo Tomori has been one of Chelsea’s stand-out player having emerged in the first team
City’s midfield remains one of the best in the business, even if Fernandinho has been forced to play in defence. Rodri, his heir apparent, has hit the ground running in English football.
We’ve seen a lot of Ilkay Gundogan this season – he’s played more minutes than any of their other outfield players – and clearly has the manager’s faith.
Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva continue to delight us with their constant stream of assists and creative moments, while City fans relish seeing homegrown Phil Foden finally get more opportunities.
Kevin De Bruyne is floored during City’s reverse against Liverpool on Sunday afternoon
Man City fixtures
Premier League unless stated
November 23 Chelsea (H)
November 26 Shakhtar Donetsk (H)
Champions League group stage
November 30 Newcastle United (A)
December 3 Burnley (A)
December 7 Manchester United (H)
December 11 Dinamo Zagreb (A)
Champions League group stage
But Chelsea will fancy their chances of winning the midfield battle a week on Saturday.
Jorginho looks a liberated player having been freed from his ‘Sarri-ball’ responsibilities, while 20-year-old Mason Mount has a strong claim to be the breakout star of the season.
With four goals already, the young England international looks as though he’ll become a mainstay of the Chelsea midfield for years to come.
Things will get even better for Lampard and Chelsea when Ruben Loftus-Cheek completes his long road back from injury.
20-year-old Mason Mount has seized his opportunity in the Chelsea team so far this season
Not everything may be going to plan this season but nobody can deny that City’s attacking players have been at their lethal best for the most part.
Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero haven’t missed a beat since last season, scoring 14 and 13 goals respectively in all competitions.
Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus have all made their scoring and creative contributions too, so City’s ruthless attacking machine is certainly ticking over as normal.
When it all clicks together, especially at the Etihad, the pressure created is totally overwhelming for the majority of opponents.
Sergio Aguero is in excellent form again this season with 13 goals so far in all competitions
Chelsea have been warned but they certainly have the ability to counter-punch. Their forwards have started to purr and we’re seen some attacking masterclasses of late.
Tammy Abraham is another triumph for Chelsea’s academy, with his 11 goals further proof their transfer ban might well be a blessing in disguise.
Christian Pulisic have channelled his pent-up frustration at being out of the team for so long into a fine spell of form, while Willian, Michy Batshuayi and Callum Hudson-Odoi all offer good options.
It could well prove to be a free-scoring afternoon if both attacks are on song.
Abraham has scored 11 goals this season after grabbing his chance in Chelsea’s front line
Chelsea won’t want reminding of their visit to the Etihad last season, when they were thrashed 6-0 after being swamped by four goals in the opening 25 minutes.
Two weeks later, they gave a better account of themselves in the Carabao Cup final before eventually losing on penalties.
There have been some bright points for Chelsea at City in recent years, with Antonio Conte’s team winning 3-1 there en route to the title in 2016-17.
But Pep’s City were just getting started back then and are a very different proposition now – especially when they have something to prove.
Chelsea were utterly humiliated in this fixture last season as City scored six goals past them