Etihad acid test for Blues

Enzo Fernandez (second from right) could prove crucial to Chelsea’s chances at the Etihad today. — Reuters

THERE’S been much discussion this past week on who might win the league – a tussle between Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal.

Of course, every football fan has their own take on it.

From a neutral standpoint, though, the sentimentalist will go with the leaders Liverpool, the pragmatist will back champions Manchester City, and the punter of a long shot will go with Arsenal.

Given that we’re still 15 games from the end (16 in Man City’s case) and just two points separate the trio at the top of the standings, there is very little to choose between them, and who knows who will win in the end?

Man City will be the favourites for many, whether one likes Pep Guardiola’s side or not. And there is reason for this.

The Citizens are the defending champions, chasing an unprecedented fourth league title in a row.

They are also coming in to some fine form at the right time – six league victories on the trot and 11 across all competitions.

But perhaps more importantly, Guardiola has a squad free of injuries. Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are back to full fitness and influencing their results just as we know they can.

These lads are among the brightest sparks in English football at the moment.

And when you go through the squad, laden with that sort of talent, one gets an idea of how much devastation they can, and often do, cause to their opposition.

In midweek, they dismantled FC Copenhagen 3-1 in the first leg of the Uefa Champions League First Knockout Round.

Chelsea will be wary of this when they travel to the Etihad today.

They will also be cognisant of the fact that City have scored two or more goals in each of their last four matches. And when they did manage to find the net only once, they won without conceding a goal.

Chelsea’s last two games have brought much relief to Mauricio Pochettino. On each occasion, they won 3-1, seeing off Crystal Palace in the league and Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

Chelsea have played like this before, showing great promise of good things to come under Pochettino, only to slip back into old and bad habits, losing their way in the process.

Their last couple of fixtures were exciting for the fans, who will really believe they had taken the corner if they indeed leave the Etihad with something to show for their visit to Manchester.

Enzo Fernandez is emerging as a vital cog in the Blues’ midfield that appears again to be clicking rather smoothly.

The Argentinian, whom Chelsea brought from Benfica in a deal worth £107mil just over a year ago, seems to have recognised the role he has to play in leading Chelsea’s midfield by taking command and carrying his teammates on his back.

A resourceful and gifted midfielder, Fernandez is generally deployed as a holding playmaker, disrupting the opposition’s advances and setting the tempo for their own thrusts forward.

And besides this, the 23-year-old, with 19 caps for this country, can also play in a more advanced role, something City will have no doubt worked on in practise.

But despite their fine displays over the last 10 days, it is hard to see them beating this in-from Man City side today.

Arsenal, for their part, will also be expected to collect maximum points from their visit to Burnley today.

The Gunners are in sparkling form too, highlighted by the six goals they put past West Ham United last weekend.

With the tightest defence in the league – Arsenal have conceded only 22 goals so far – Mikel Arteta’s side are also showing a keenness for goals up front.

Their 53 strikes are only behind Liverpool and Man City, and in their four Premier League matches, they have scored no fewer than 16 times. That’s a telling ratio by any standards.

Against Vincent Kompany’s Clarets, Arteta will be expecting his front six to add to that tally.

But it’s unlikely that the Gunners will sweep past Burnley as easily as they did the Hammers last weekend.

Burnley have shown they can, but in patches, defend.

They certainly did that against Liverpool before they were overrun.

Kompany’s message, one can only assume, will be to keep it tight at the back from the beginning to the end and maybe hit the Gunners on the counter-attack.

But notwithstanding this, Arsenal, like Man City, should keep the pressure on Liverpool, who play Brentford in the early kick-off today.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Metro News

Lunch specials to tantalise taste buds this month
Lift woes plague PPR Sri Aman folk
Call to review Singaporean flight schedules
Tottenham should pip Newcastle United in close tie
Brighter Raya for six families in Seremban, thanks to developer
Powering SMEs in Pengerang
Hooked on niche hobbies
Bags of necessities come in handy for festive celebration
Gunners lie in wait for Aston Villa
Events to mark 50th anniversary of Rascom resettlements in Rajang Basin

Others Also Read