Chelsea-Manchester City Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- LONDON (SE) - The pressure will be on both teams when Manchester City host Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Roberto Mancini's City (15-8-3) trail league leaders Manchester United by 12 points with 12 games of the season remaining, and rumours are beginning to circulate about the manager's future at the club. However, star striker Sergio Aguero is hoping that the squad will be able to take inspiration from their 4-0 win over Leeds United in the FA Cup last weekend and mount a late title challenge.
"The boost of winning well against Leeds and getting the Southampton defeat out of our system was just what we needed," said Aguero. "The chances of ending this championship in the best possible fashion have only improved, but we know what we are capable of and have done for a long time. This is a team that always goes for the win in every game.
"We've got a squad littered with great players fully committed to their team, proud and ready to bounce back from any setbacks. We've proven it before. Why can't we do it again?"
Visitors Chelsea (14-7-5) have won just two of their last five league games, but go into Sunday's match just four points behind second-placed City in the table. Interim manager Rafa Benitez is targeting second place, but with Tottenham. Arsenal and Everton not far behind, he knows that the race for the Champions League places is likely to remain tight until the end of the season.
"I think City are a great team," said Benitez following his team's 1-1 draw with Sparta Prague in the Europa League on Thursday. "In the last few years they have improved and spent some money. They have a great team, a great manager, and there is a positive atmosphere around the team and the club, which means it will be difficult to beat them. They don't lose too many points at home and they are very strong.
"The priority is to win this game, if we win this game we will be closer. If not, we have to keep on fighting. The race for the top four will go until the end of the season. Our last game is against Everton, so I'm sure between now and then it will be very close. We still have to play against Tottenham and Everton, one game can make a big difference so if you drop points it makes it difficult."
Vincent Kompany (calf) and Gareth Barry (knock) are doubtful for Manchester City, but Micah Richards (knee) remains out. Oriol Romeu is a long-term injury absentee for Chelsea with a knee ligament injury.
City are without a win in three league games - their longest winless run since 2009 - and have already dropped as many points this season (25) as they did in the whole of their title winning campaign.
Chelsea's Frank Lampard is the first player in Premier League history to have scored ten goals or more in ten straight seasons. The midfielder is the club's top-scorer this season with 11 - despite playing less than half the total minutes.
The match finished as a goalless draw when these teams met at Stamford Bridge in November. Six of the last eight league meetings between the two have been won by the home side, with a 4-2 win for City at the Bridge in 2010 the only other reversal.
Updated February 22, 2013