City Protects Home Fortress

Picture: Daniel Tejedor/AP
City manager Manual Pellegrini hoping for a 'home dozen'. Picture: Daniel Tejedor/AP

Many teams have travelled to Etihad Stadium this season with high hopes of victory, only to return home shattered. Manchester City has won all 11 of its home matches and hopes to make it a neat dozen against Chelsea .

Sides which have ventured to the Sky Blues’ fortress and failed include; top-eight team Newcastle 4-0 , champion Manchester United 4-1 , fifth–placed Everton 3-1 , London giants Tottenham 6-0, competition leader Arsenal 6-3 and fourth-placed Liverpool 2-1 . In the 11 victories in front their adoring fans this campaign, City the Citizens have scored 42 goals, whilst conceding just eight.

Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea lead the race for the title and victory in this contest essentially turns into a six-point turnaround for one of the sides – Manchester City will regain top-spot or Chelsea can join the Mancurians in equal-second. If that’s not enough spice, then there’s the personal rivalry between two high-profile coaches.

Chelsea manager Joe Mourinho has a perceived fall-out with City boss Manuel Pelligrini dating back to when he succeeded him as Real Madrid coach in 2010. The two have engaged in mind games leading into this clash. Mourinho claiming City must be title favourites and they’ll be expected to score several goals. He also reckons they’ve under-achieved since being taken over by Sheikh Mansour in 2008. Mourinho also rejected claims by Tottenham boss Tim Sherwood that Manchester City is the best team on the planet. Mourinho insists the EPL leader has been "lucky" this season, especially when it comes to border-line refereeing decisions. To his credit, Pellegrini hasn’t swallowed Mourinho's bait, preferring to keep the focus on the importance of the match and its ramifications in the chase for the title.

Manchester City will be minus prolific scorer Sergio Aguero, who faces a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Aguero has scored 50 Premier League goals from 81 games, the fifth fastest man to a half century, behind Andy Cole, Alan Shearer, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Fernando Torres. He joins playmaker Samir Nasri (knee) on the sidelines, while midfielder Javi Garcia is also out. Midfielder James Milner is back in contention after a groin problem.

Mohamed Salah could be included in Chelsea's squad after the Egyptian winger trained with his new team-mates on Friday for the first time since joining from Basle. Striker Fernando Torres (knee) is still not right and midfielder Marco van Ginkel (knee) is a long-term absentee. Mourinho insists Chelsea head to Etihad in search of a victory and not simply to stifle Manchester City. Chelsea beat City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in October when a rush of blood from keeper Joe Hart allowed Torres to score a last-gasp winner. Chelsea is undefeated in its last eight League matches, having beaten Hull City 2-0 and Southampton 3-0 on the road.

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