From battling in hard times to the pinnacle of European football: How the Chelsea and Man City rivalry has evolved

A lot of fans may consider the Chelsea-Manchester City rivalry to be a very modern coming together, but as our former winger Pat Nevin recalls, there was plenty of spice in our meetings during the Eighties.

You don’t need us to remind you which side we beat in last season’s Champions League final, courtesy of a Kai Havertz goal that instantly earned him legend status as a Blue, while there have also been several Wembley dates for the Blues and City in the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.

On Saturday lunchtime, the eyes of the football world will once again be on these two sides when we meet at the Etihad Stadium in a game that will have huge ramifications for this year’s Premier League title race.

However, it wasn’t always like that. As chelseafc.com columnist, and former Blues Player of the Year, Pat Nevin revealed in a feature for the matchday programme last season, it was a very different rivalry during his time at the club.

‘It was a different fixture to what you see now,’ said Nevin. ‘Chelsea and City were both big clubs that had fallen on hard times and were trying to get back to where they believed they belonged.

‘Chelsea had won big trophies in the Sixties and Seventies, as had City, but after all that, my first game against them was in the old Division Two as we battled it out against each other for promotion.

‘There were some good games during my time. The one that stands out, for obvious reasons, was when we beat them at Maine Road.’

That game was in May 1984. The Blues and City had been competing to win promotion with the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United that season, but it was John Neal’s side who would eventually go all the way to lift the Division Two title, having guaranteed promotion back to the top flight the weekend before the Man City game.

‘It was live on TV and there was a big audience at home. We were in front of the nation and we put on a show to win 2-0. It wasn’t like it is now. You couldn’t just switch on the TV and watch football. You had to go the games to see players and know if they were any good.

‘After a match that had been on TV, you would get noticed more in the street. Personally, I didn’t give a stuff about that. Everything was secondary to playing and, against City that night, winning. We did that so it was job done.’

While the wider football public may have tuned in for the game that night at Maine Road, when people think of Chelsea-City matches from the period, it isn’t the Blues winning in their back yard that neceesarily springs to mind.

Indeed, when people reflect on Nevin’s career and influence as one of the most dynamic and exciting wingers British football has produced, it’s not his effervescent style they recall. It’s for a penalty kick that the man himself happily tells anyone that will listen was one of the worst ever taken in a professional game.

‘Everyone likes to talk to me about the penalty! To be honest, I actually like it. I celebrate it myself as it’s a moment to look back on and just laugh.

‘I’d played really well and made a couple of goals for Kerry Dixon en route to him scoring a hat-trick. The game was done, we were already going through, so when we got a penalty late on, I tried a technique I’d been working on.

‘I only took a step so the keeper couldn’t see which way I was going. Trying it in training, I’d got it right every time, but against City, I didn’t get enough power and the ball just about reached the goalkeeper.

‘Barry Davies was commentating and called it the worst penalty he had ever seen - and I agreed with him!

‘My view is that if you take yourself too seriously, it’ll get your goat. It is the worst penalty ever and nobody can take that away from me!’

Another clash of significance between Chelsea and today’s visitors in that period came at Wembley Stadium in the 1986 Full Members’ Cup final – a game played just one day after the Blues and City had been in league action.

‘Chelsea hadn’t been to Wembley since 1972, so when we came out of the tunnel to see the fans inside the stadium, we knew this was a massive game for the fans. It was serious for them, so despite playing a day earlier against Southampton, we wanted to win for them.

‘We were 5-1 up with five minutes remaining, but then they scored two quick goals to bring it to 5-3. The ref gave them a penalty, too! Mark Lillis scored to make it 5-4 and the referee blew up soon after.’

Games between the clubs today see much more on the line. It’s Champions League football and major honours, which Nevin agrees is a world away from the matches he featured in.

‘Sadly, there’s no comparison with then and now. We weren’t powerhouses back then, but both clubs are in that bracket now. You can’t compare it to back then. It was so different.’

More from chelsea