Chelsea-Manchester City Preview
By TOM BENNETT
STATS European Football Writer
(AP) -- Premier League leaders Manchester City will face their biggest test of the season so far when they welcome Chelsea to the Etihad on Monday evening.
Manuel Pellegrini's City (17-2-4) have won nine consecutive league games going into Monday's top-of-the-table clash, and a 5-1 hammering of Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday took their goal-scoring tally up to an astonishing 68 from 23 games. Their form at the Etihad is peerless, with City yet to drop a point in 11 home games, scoring 42 goals and conceding just eight. Their incredible current form led to Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood to describe them as the 'best team on the planet' after the midweek hammering at White Hart Lane, but Pellegrini is not getting carried away just yet.
"I don't think we are the best team in the planet, but if we play exactly the way we did against Tottenham, we are a very good team.
"The game against Chelsea is very important for both teams. Arsenal and Chelsea are both having a good season. Just because they have dropped points does not mean they are weaker. Whatever happens in the game, the season is not over. There are still 42 points to play for. At the moment, we are not thinking about titles. We are thinking about improving and winning every game."
Chelsea (15-5-3) saw a run of five straight wins come to an end when they were held to a 0-0 draw by West Ham United in midweek. Despite the fact that a win at the Etihad would see the Blues would draw level with City, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho is keen to downplay his team's title chances.
"Next pre-season I will say Chelsea is a candidate. This is not what we feel and working for this season," said Mourinho. "If we win or lose, I don't think we are a candidate.
"We go there next Monday and the result at this moment is 0-0. Are they favourites? Yes. Are they favourites to score, again, four, five, six goals? Yes. But it's 0-0 now, and we go there to compete. We have shown we can go to the big clubs and get results but the way they are playing at the minute it will be a real test for us, so I'm sure it will be an exciting game."
Man City will lose Sergio Aguero for another month after he came off with a hamstring problem at White Hart Lane, while Pellegrini is also without the services of Samir Nasri (knee) and James Milner (groin). Chelsea are missing Fernando Torres (knee).
Torres scored a 90th-minute winner when these teams met earlier in the season. Sergio Aguero had equalised after Andre Shurrle's opener in the game at Stamford Bridge, but a defensive blunder allowed Torres to secure the three points.
That 2-1 victory was Chelsea's first over City in five meetings. City have won five of the last nine meetings since December 2009, turning around Chelsea's previous dominance of the fixture. Between 2000 and 2009 Chelsea won 14 of the 16 meetings between the clubs, losing just once and doing the double over the Citizens in seven of the eight seasons.
City have won their last four home games against Chelsea in the Premier League all by just a single goal.
Updated February 1, 2014