Chelsea top at New Year if they avoid Man City defeat, says Stuart Pearce
Last Updated: 01/12/16 1:27pm
Chelsea will start 2017 top of the Premier League if they avoid defeat at Man City, Stuart Pearce has told Premier League Daily.
Antonio Conte's side are on a seven-match winning run in the Premier League and head to the Etihad for Saturday's live Sky Sports game a point clear of City and Liverpool at the top.
Just one of Chelsea's five subsequent opponents are in the top half, and Pearce is predicting a productive December if they can get the City game out of the way without undue damage.
Chelsea's Premier League opponents after City are: West Brom, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Stoke.
He told Sky Sports News HQ's Premier League Daily programme: "If you take Chelsea, seven victories on the bounce, their next games after this are really key matches and all winnable.
"If they can get a result at City - whether it's a point or three points - come New Year's Day they'll be top of the league."
Pearce, a former City boss, expects his old club to play the Pep Guardiola way in front of their own supporters which means possession football and collective pressing when Chelsea have the ball.
Tottenham had some joy harrying Chelsea's three-man defence and wing-backs high up at Stamford Bridge last week before eventually losing 2-1.
And Pearce said: "That's the big problem with three at the back - when three becomes five you've got a big problem, especially when you're the home team.
"It's not such a problem away at Man City if they become a back five, but when you counter you've got to get the wing-backs forward quickly."
Alan Curbishley, Pearce's fellow guest in the Premier League Daily studio, said: "It's a really interesting game. When Guardiola came into the Premier League I was thinking how teams would try and combat what he was trying to do.
"I've seen teams try and stop them playing out and teams dropping off, so I'll be interested to see what Conte does in terms of tactics, but it's certainly a massive game and a bit of a gap could open up if Chelsea go and get a result."