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When even Pep Guardiola admits that his side probably should have come up second best on the day, Man City were certainly counting their lucky stars against Arsenal, who ultimately suffered a 2-1 defeat in a controversy-filled encounter on New Year’s Day.
Riyad Mahrez and Rodri‘s efforts cancelled out a first-half opener from Bukayo Saka as Mikel Arteta once again fell to his former master, and while the champions surprised some by putting out an incredibly strong team for the FA Cup amid a COVID-19 cluster, it ensured City’s progress with a 4-1 success over Swindon Town last Friday.
The victory over Ben Garner‘s outfit was Man City’s seventh in a row across all competitions as the Premier League table-toppers seek to extend their lead at the summit, and the returning Etihad faithful ought to be treated to quite the spectacle for their first home game of 2022.
Guardiola’s relentless crop have come up trumps in each of their last seven games at home across all tournaments – including each of their last five in the Premier League – and even without a recognised striker for much of the campaign, City have still averaged at least three goals per Premier League game at the Etihad.
In total, the reigning champions have strung together an 11-game winning streak in the Premier League, although they can take nothing for granted against title-challenging opponents buoyed by reaching a mid-season cup final.
Man City’s COVID-19 outbreak led to a total of seven first-team players – as well as Guardiola – entering isolation before the Swindon win, and it remains to be seen how many of the unnamed contingent will be able to return here.
Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko are believed to be two of the players affected, while John Stones is close to returning from a knock, and Riyad Mahrez remains on Africa Cup of Nations duty with Algeria.
Ederson will prepare to wrestle the gloves back off Zack Steffen, assuming he is not one of the COVID-affected group, while Aymeric Laporte will also return in place of Nathan Ake if Stones is ruled out once again.
As for Chelsea, Tuchel has no fresh injury concerns to work around for the top-of-the-table clash, but Ben Chilwell, Reece James, Trevoh Chalobah and AFCON representative Edouard Mendy remain unavailable, while Andreas Christensen has contracted coronavirus.
Thiago Silva and N’Golo Kante both returned from COVID-19 infection off the bench against Spurs and could earn starts at the Etihad, but it will be a tall order for the latter to displace Mateo Kovacic or Jorginho.
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Malang Sarr once again looked assured in a left-hand side role in midweek and should start here with Christensen out, while Kai Havertz will push for a recall in the final third over Timo Werner.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne; B. Silva, Jesus, Foden
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; T. Silva, Rudiger, Sarr; Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Mount, Havertz; Lukaku