Manchester City will play Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, 15 January. Kick-off is at 12.30 pm UK time.
First plays second in this top-of-the-table match. However, with City 10 points clear, the tension normally associated with these matches is not there.
They have won 11 straight matches in the league. Even if there was a touch of fortune, and not a little controversy after the most recent of those wins, against Arsenal on New Year’s Day.
Since then, they have played Swindon Town of League Two in the FA Cup, but the potential banana skin was negotiated without any undue alarms.
For once, they have not been involved in the latter stages of the Carabao Cup, a competition they have dominated in the past few years. That, however, comes with its advantages, not the least of which being that it gives players the chance to rest and those suffering from Covid the opportunity to recover.
If Chelsea are to have any faint hopes of wresting the league title, this is a must-win game for them. They began the season as serious contenders, but their defeat at the hands of City in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge sowed the first seed of doubt that they are not ready yet.
They have not lost since going down to West Ham before the international break, but too many dropped points and a series of injuries have derailed their challenge somewhat. The row over comments made by striker and record signing Romelu Lukaku were also damaging to team morale for a while.
However, they are close to having a fully fit squad again, and those who had Covid-19 are beginning to return.
They were very impressive against Spurs over two legs of their Carabao Cup semi-final, essentially outclassing their London rivals. So comfortable was their victory, that they were able to rest players well ahead of the final whistle at the North London Stadium on Wednesday night.
Whilst Chelsea’s need for a victory is much greater than City’s, Pep Guardiola’s team are supremely confident just now and show no signs of faltering. Chelsea may end City’s winning run, but, unless they can find a way of beating City on their own ground that may ultimately not be good enough.