Two giants of the English game kick off 2021 with a bang this afternoon as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge for a mouth-watering showdown.
Both teams have accrued 26 points heading into their first match of the New Year, although the visitors do have two games in hand and have enjoyed a far better spell of form than their weekend opponents.
Chelsea’s last match of 2020 saw the Blues held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa, while a coronavirus-hit Manchester City last took to the pitch on Boxing Day in their comfortable victory over Newcastle United.
The New Year brings new opportunities for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, who will be aiming to wipe the slate clean after a spate of underwhelming results over the festive period.
The Blues faithful have only been treated to a solitary win from their side’s last six matches in all competitions, but even then that 3-0 derby victory over West Ham United simply papered over the cracks that have begun to appear at Stamford Bridge.
There is no shame in losing at the home of Everton or Wolverhampton Wanderers, but when you are a Chelsea side with ambitions of Premier League glory after a £200m summer spending spree, your title credentials will undoubtedly be called into question after back-to-back defeats to European hopefuls.
Lampard’s men deserved nothing from their Boxing Day trip to Arsenal and that is exactly what they got, but welcoming Aston Villa to the fortress of Stamford Bridge represented the perfect opportunity for the Blues to rectify the mistakes they made at the Emirates Stadium.
However, Chelsea once again came up short on their own patch, with Olivier Giroud’s opener – his ninth goal of the season in all competitions – cancelled out by Anwar El Ghazi’s second-half equaliser as Chelsea lost more ground in the title race.
As the only top-half side to have lost three of their last five league matches, the sixth-placed Blues now find themselves seven points behind reigning champions Liverpool and three behind fourth-placed Everton, who take on West Ham, while Manchester United face off against Aston Villa on Friday.
In spite of Chelsea’s recent struggles – and the fact that Kai Havertz and Timo Werner are yet to demonstrate their true qualities – only Liverpool (37) have chalked up more top-flight goals than Chelsea (31) this season, and a win for the Blues would see them extend their unbeaten streak at home to 12 matches in all competitions.