Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City - Premier League

Manchester City v. Chelsea: Can Mourinho’s ‘Anti-Football’ claim City?

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  • Manchester City have won 19 and lost just one of their last 21 Barclays Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium, including winning the last 11 in a row.
  • Chelsea have kept three clean sheets in a row away from home in the Barclays Premier League.
  • Chelsea have lost their last four Premier League visits to the Etihad, but no team has won more games away at Man City in Premier League history than the west Londoners

The match of the week in the Premier League falls on Monday when Manchester City host Chelsea on Monday (live 2:00pm ET on NBCSN and Live Extra) where a win by the Citizens will see them reclaim top spot in the Premier League.

City enter the match on fire having won eight straight in the league since the 1-1 draw with Southampton on December 7th. During that stretch Manuel Pellegrini’s men have scored 27 goals, sticking to their approach to kill opponents off with offense. And the bigger the opponent, the bigger the goal scoring display as Arsenal and Tottenham have found out, having had six and five put past them, respectively.

Defensively, City tend to be a bit lax through the middle where Vincent Kompany has yet to cement a proper counterpart in Joleon Lescott, Matija Nastasic and Martin Demichelis. And therein lies the soft spot most clubs try to access when playing City – hope to press high early on and nip one through the middle. Watford managed to do it twice last weekend in the FA Cup but the two goal deficit proved nothing for City’s firepower, who banged home four in the second half to win comfortably. Chelsea, however, are another story.

Jose Mourinho’s game plan against top competition is tried and tested: sit back, defend and if it’s on, try and score off the counter. This approach, which many have labeled “anti-football” and “boring”, was best displayed in the early season 0-0 draw at United and the December 23rd 0-0 draw at Arsenal. And that’s exactly what fans should expect from his side on Monday. Staunch defense, low (to no) scoring. Praying for a point on the road.

Chelsea enter the match after a bit of a stumble last week in the 0-0 draw at West Ham. Ironically enough, Mourinho called the Hammers’ approach “19th century football.” But the Blues haven’t lost in nine matches and if they can manage to win Monday will find themselves on even terms with City in the table, with only goal differential setting them back.

City will be without Sergio Aguero (hamstring), Samir Nasri (knee) and Javi Garcia (knock) while Chelsea striker Fernando Torres (knee) is their only significant player sidelined with injury.

What They’re Saying

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “Chelsea try to win every game. We are not going to change our philosophy. We are going in a certain direction, and just because we are playing a certain opponent doesn’t mean we are going to change that.”

City manager Manuel Pellegrini: “It is my job to make certain the players don’t believe all that and I am absolutely sure they don’t. They know perfectly well that the only target is to beat Chelsea in the next game. We are not invincible, no team is invincible. We are in a very good moment, but the difference between a win and a loss is so slight, in every match it is possible you can lose.”


Chelsea will do their best to take the steam out of this match but City’s firepower is just too much. They will score, Chelsea will get stretched trying to equalize and I think City will get another.  2-0 to the home side.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.