The wait for the first home game of 2023 is almost over, and it is a big game in the Blues’ quest to climb the Premier League table…

Chelsea are likely to rely tonight on our greatest strength this season – the fourth-best defensive record in the top flight – as the world champions welcome Premier League title-holders Manchester City to Stamford Bridge for an 8pm kick-off.

Both teams were held to a draw last time out following opening victories when the Premier League picked up after the World Cup, and the two sides meet again on Sunday in Manchester for a mouthwatering FA Cup tie.

For now, the Blues’ first home game of 2023 falls on Twelfth Night, traditionally when the Christmas decorations come down in England, though we hope for tinsel and crackers still tonight in what is always a huge match.

Defending champions City have already dropped points in five league games this season. The Chelsea players – the only team yet to concede at home in the opening hour of a league game – will need the best possible backing from the crowd tonight to make that six.

Chelsea team news

This is Chelsea’s second meeting with Manchester City this season, with a third to come in the FA Cup on Sunday. For November's Carabao Cup meeting in Manchester, a 2-0 loss, Graham Potter rested players and used a back three of Trevoh Chalobah, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc Cucurella, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Lewis Hall as wing-backs.

Since the restart, Potter has started with a 4-3-3 system but the number of goalscoring opportunities produced against relegation-threatened Nottingham Forest may prompt a rethink while key personnel are absent.

Previously, against Bournemouth, with Reece James on the field, the Blues almost equalled our highest ‘expected goals’ tally of 1.9 at home to Wolves. However against Forest we did not secure a second goal that could have sealed victory.

Until his substitution at the City Ground, Denis Zakaria’s role as a pushed-on right central midfielder helped shore up the right side ahead of Cesar Azpilicueta, in for the injured James, but tonight’s visitors offer a different and more aggressive threat level in wide areas.

Raheem Sterling may start against his former club for the first time (he was a second-half substitute during November’s Carabao Cup loss at the Etihad). The summer signing’s first league goal since August was a major positive from Sunday’s draw, as were impressive first minutes back off the bench from Mateo Kovacic and from Hakim Ziyech, who continued his World Cup form to create a potentially match-winning chance that tantalisingly eluded Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Chelsea will most likely still be without most of the usual injury list – Armando Broja, Ben Chilwell, Wesley Fofana, Reece James, N’Golo Kante and Edou Mendy. Finalising paperwork and match fitness issues appear likely to rule out recently signed Ivory Coast striker David Datro Fofana.

Scouting the opposition: Manchester City

It is far from a crisis but Manchester City have dropped points in two of their past four league outings (and five of 16 league games overall) to trail present league leaders Arsenal by eight points. In some of those games the champions misplaced their usual front-foot verve when attacking, and deep-defending Everton’s draw at the Etihad was surprisingly comfortable.

Pep Guardiola’s side usually rise to the occasion against the Premier League’s best teams, winning 6-3 at home to cross-town rivals Man United. But two losses (Liverpool away, Brentford at home) and one draw (3-3 at Newcastle) came against teams in the top seven this campaign. They are unbeaten against anyone currently eighth or lower - and Chelsea are 10th.

Striker Erling Haaland’s goal numbers are exceptional but Bournemouth, Brighton, Everton, Liverpool and Wolves restricted him to two shots, often by stifling the supply to him.

The Norwegian was man-marked by Everton’s physically assertive Ben Godfrey, but it was work-rate, togetherness and closing down opponents’ space, especially in midfield, that earned their reward.

Guardiola started with a 3-4-3 formation against the Toffees and was mildly critical of his players’ performance, suggesting he will look at ‘body language’ in training before selecting a starting 11. Most likely he is looking at midfield, where Rodri, ex-Blue Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan have held sway recently, and wide areas, where Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva are pushing to replace Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez.

Chelsea will aim to discomfort City’s backline, especially probing gaps between John Stones and Rico Lewis or summer signing Manuel Akanji. Ruben Dias is definitely ruled out, but centre-back Aymeric Laporte may return from injury and World Cup-winning forward Julian Alvarez could also figure.

Chelsea and City – the history

Chelsea-Manchester City matches have often been meaningful over the years, but especially so in recent ones. No rival has secured more wins against the Citizens in the Premier League era than Chelsea’s 27, five of them since the start of the 2016/17 season. Equally, as a coach Pep Guardiola has not lost to any club more than he has the Londoners (eight times).

That said, the Blues have lost each of the past three meetings with City since our Champions League final success against them in Porto almost two years ago. In the Premier League, the Blues’ most recent victory came a month before that famous success, when Hakim Ziyech and Marcos Alonso found the net in a 2-1 victory at the Etihad.

For three points at Stamford Bridge we have to go back to June of the Covid-affected 2019/20 season. Behind closed doors, Frank Lampard’s side bolstered Champions League hopes while at the same time handing the league crown to Liverpool as Christian Pulisic and Willian, late on from the spot, delivered a 2-1 knockout blow to the Mancunians’ bid.

Three consecutive victories across all competitions for Chelsea has since become three in a row for City, and Graham Potter’s side are aiming to prevent a rare third home Premier League defeat on the spin to the same club. The only previous teams to have managed that are Blackburn (1993-96) and Arsenal (2021-present).

Chelsea vs Manchester City in Premier League


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Thriving on Thursdays

This is Chelsea’s first fixture of the season to be played on a Thursday, which has proved an auspicious weekday for the Londoners in recent years. In fact, since April 2018 the Blues have played 25 fixtures on this day of the week across all competitions, losing only once. Among the victories in that run was Man City’s visit to the Bridge on 25 June 2020, which ended in a 2-1 win for the hosts.

Home comfort at the Bridge

Tonight Stamford Bridge is the stage for the final game of Premier League matchweek 19, and Chelsea’s second home game since the restart. As things stand, the Blues are one of just seven host clubs (24 per cent) to have tasted victory on home soil (by beating Bournemouth 2-0) in the 29 matches played since Boxing Day.

There have been seven draws (24 per cent) but a whopping 15 successes for visiting teams (52 per cent), wildly at odds with the overall top-flight trend this season of 46 per cent home wins, 31 per cent away and 23 per cent drawn.

Fulham and Manchester United are the only clubs to have secured three points in all three games since the World Cup. Those two, plus Arsenal, Brentford, Newcastle and tonight’s combatants, Chelsea and Man City, are the only sides who remain unbeaten after the break.

Own goals at the double

Last week against Liverpool, Leicester’s Wout Faes became the first Premier League player to score two own goals in the same match for very nearly 10 years.

Up to then, the most recent double fault had been by Jonathan Walters of Stoke City in a 4-0 Chelsea win at the Britannia Stadium on 12 January 2013. Walters inadvertently netted first from a Cesar Azpilicueta cross, then a Juan Mata corner. The Republic of Ireland international later compounded his miserable afternoon by skying a penalty, while also volleying a clearance into his own face.

Three other players have scored two own goals in a single Premier League game: Gary Breen (Coventry) against Manchester United in 1997, Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), also against United in 1999, and Michael Proctor (Sunderland) against Charlton in 2003.

  • By club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton