Man City vs Chelsea: Pep Guardiola's champions in uncharted territory
Watch Man City vs Chelsea on Saturday Night Football from 5pm on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 5.30pm
Last Updated: 23/11/19 5:16pm
Manchester City's clash with Chelsea on Saturday Night Football is the biggest game of the defending champions' season - and here's why.
'The next game is always the most important' is a phrase spouted out by managers far too often but it's one which resonates with the situation City find themselves in this weekend.
After their crushing 3-1 defeat at Liverpool before the international break, the defending champions' season is at a crossroads. They need a response, not another setback.
But, with the Premier League's in-form team Chelsea on their way to the Etihad, come Saturday night, we will know whether the champions have the stomach for the fight or whether Liverpool really did strike a psychological blow.
Pep in uncharted territory
Whether it be at Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Manchester City, Pep Guardiola's teams have notoriously led from the front, or at least that used to be the case.
Of course, Guardiola has chased down teams in title races before, but only once has he won the league having trailed at this stage of the season, and that was with arguably the greatest of his Barcelona teams in 2011, where they overturned a one-point deficit after 12 games to win La Liga.
With the gap to Liverpool currently at nine points - it could be 12 by the time City kick-off against Chelsea - Guardiola is very much in uncharted territory.
Never before has he been this far off the pace in his top-flight managerial career, and to make matters worse, he has never taken fewer points from his opening 12 games of a top-flight season than this term.
Whether Guardiola can adapt his squad's psyche from being hunted to the hunter remains to be seen, but if City were to go on and win the Premier League from this position, it would be up there with his greatest achievements at City, if not his career.
The worst is yet to come?
Having faced just two of the current top eight in their opening 12 fixtures, the visit of Chelsea ushers in the start of Manchester City's most-testing period in the Premier League so far.
While Liverpool have been overcoming obstacle after obstacle, beating the five teams directly below them in the table, including City, the champions have faltered and are yet to beat a side higher than ninth.
Man City: Next 8 PL fixtures
|Man Utd (H)||7th|
|Sheff Utd (H)||5th|
With away trips to Newcastle and Burnley, the Manchester derby, matches with Arsenal and Leicester and the potential banana skins of Wolves and Sheffield United, there's an argument things could get worse before they get better for Manchester City.
Aguero the answer again?
Whenever Manchester City have found themselves in need, there's one man who continues to provide the answers - Sergio Aguero.
The Argentine has struck fear into the hearts of Chelsea ever since he moved to the Premier League, and there's every chance he will be key if City are to get back on track on Saturday.
No player in Premier League history has scored more goals against Chelsea than Aguero, whose hat-trick in last season's corresponding fixture saw him hit double figures (10) against the Blues in just 13 games.
Chelsea - the new challengers?
Manchester City hit Chelsea for six in an imperious performance in the same fixture last season, but this time around, Frank Lampard's side arrive at the Etihad as the Premier League's in-form team.
The Blues have won their last six games on the bounce - their best run in the division since their title-winning 2016/17 campaign - and another could well see them replace City as the chief challengers to Liverpool.
Chelsea sit a point and a place ahead of the champions but if they are to really ramp up the rhetoric that they are genuine title contenders they have to achieve something that has so far eluded them this season, and that's win against a side currently in the top seven.
Winning away at City is no formality, as last season proved, but with Chelsea boasting the best record against Guardiola since he moved to the Premier League - three wins from six encounters - the blueprint is there for Lampard's current crop.
Attack, attack, attack
Whatever the outcome of Saturday's match, it promises to be a belter, with two of the Premier League's most attack-minded sides locking horns.
Manchester City top the goalscoring, shots and quality chances created charts by a sizable margin this season, but Chelsea are not too far behind.
Man City vs Chelsea: Attacking comparison
|Rank||Man City||PL - 19/20||Chelsea||Rank|
|1st||27||Goals from open play||24||2nd|
|1st||56||Big chances created||39||2nd|
Both sides boast one of the Premier League's top scorers, Sergio Aguero and Tammy Abraham, with both strikers are among five of the top seven players for expected goals and expected assists that could feature at the Etihad, along with Raheem Sterling, Christian Pulisic and David Silva.
How to follow
Manchester City vs Chelsea is live on Saturday Night Football from 5pm; kick-off 5.30pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.