The Premier League champions host the European champions this weekend. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton set the scene for a blue Sunday…
A win at the Etihad on Sunday would leave Chelsea just one point behind second-placed Manchester City who, having crashed out of the Champions League again, have played six fewer matches so far this year.
No visiting side has earned more Premier League points against City than Chelsea, who boast the second best away record in the land this season, although the home side has prevailed on the Blues' last three visits.
The Citizens have not won in three league matches and were rocked by a 1-3 defeat by Southampton last time out. Last week's 4-0 FA Cup win against Leeds United, though, indicated a return to form.
City's defence of their first title win in 44 years has been fitful, even though they have remained the closest challengers to their great rivals Man United for much of the campaign. They are 10 points down on the same stage last season with 12 matches remaining and the same number of points separating them and the leaders ahead of this weekend.
Chelsea's most recent domestic away trip ended in surrender at St James' Park but Rafael Benitez and his side will be buoyed by progress on all fronts since then.
Substitute Eden Hazard's late equaliser against Sparta in the Europa League (pictured below) keeps the European champions on course to play up to 71 matches his season - a club record. Our qualification for the Round of 16 means further Thursday/Sunday matches in the first half of March. (By the way, supporters planning their trip to Bucharest for the first leg on 7 March should note the game starts early at six o'clock UK time.)
Southampton away had already been scheduled for the 31st of the same month. Perhaps it is fitting that the first top-flight side to play on the Sabbath (along with our opponents back in January 1974, Stoke City) should habituate that day but it can mess with the social life outside football, should fans enjoy one.
Should the Blues overcome Steaua, the quarter-final games are set for 4 and 11 April, with the semis starting a fortnight later.
Total goals in all competitions
Chelsea: 106 in 46 games.
Manchester City: 68 goals in 37 games.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Fulham v Stoke 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v Aston Villa 3pm
Norwich v Everton 3pm
QPR v Manchester United 3pm
Reading v Wigan 3pm
West Brom v Sunderland 3pm
Manchester City v Chelsea 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Newcastle v Southampton 1.30pm
West Ham v Tottenham 8pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League top six|
The race for the Premier League Golden Boot
Robin van Persie (Manchester Utd) 19
Luis Suarez (Liverpool) 18
Michu (Swansea) 15
Demba Ba (13 for Newcastle) 14
Gareth Bale (Tottenham) 13
Race for the Premier League Golden Glove
Joe Hart (Manchester City) 11
Petr Cech 9
Asmir Begovic (Stoke) 9
Simon Mignolet (Sunderland) 9
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WE HAVE HISTORY
In May 1984 Chelsea travelled to Maine Road for a Friday evening live BBC televised game with John Neal's side competing to finish the season as Second Division champions having already won promotion.
There was a carnival mood among the hordes of Blues fans who travelled north (and afterwards a party in Manchester hosted by chairman Ken Bates) and the dynamic trio of Dixon-Nevin-Speedie did not disappoint.
The first hour was goalless, but on 65 minutes Pat Nevin muscled (yes, muscled) his way past City left-back Clive Wilson and, timing his shot as the ball bounced in the area, volleyed across goalkeeper Alex Williams to score off both posts.
Five minutes later winger Paul Canoville twinkle-toed the ball through the unfortunate Wilson's legs to Speedie, who chipped a perfect cross to Dixon. The big no.9's close-range header gave Williams no chance and the match finished 2-0 to the Londoners.
Man City have won five of the last eight meetings in all competitions between our clubs since December 2009.
Chelsea have won 15 of the last 23 league matches at Maine Road and the Etihad Stadium, losing only five. City's victories in the last three seasons plus the one in 2004 are the only ones in 15 since the Premier League started in 1992.
Our last 10 league meetings at Manchester City
2002/03 - Chelsea won 3-0
2003/04 - Chelsea won 1-0
2004/05 - Man City won 1-0
2005/06 - Chelsea won 1-0
2006/07 - Chelsea won 1-0
2007/08 - Chelsea won 2-0
2008/09 - Chelsea won 3-1
2009/10 - Man City won 2-1
2010/11 - Man City won 1-0
2011/12 - Man City won 2-1
The reverse fixture this season
25 November 2012 Barclays Premier League
Chelsea………..……0 Man City.………..….…0
FA Community Shield this season
12 August 2012 Villa Park
Man City……..….…3 Chelsea………..……2
Y Touré 52 Torres 39
Tévez 58 Bertrand 79
Chelsea v Manchester City in all competitions
Games played 145
Chelsea wins 61
City wins 47
Head to head in the League at Maine Road and the Etihad Stadium
Games played 67
Chelsea wins 21
City wins 30
Biggest league win at Man City for each team
Man City 6-2 Chelsea - 26/11/1977
Man City 1-4 Chelsea - 03/05/1933 and 01/10/1966
Chelsea won at the Etihad: 1,625
Manchester City lost at the Etihad: 77
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,835
Liverpool won the league: 8,330
Visit again tomorrow for Part Two of the Briefing.