In just the second week of the season, we have a battle of last year’s champions and runner-ups. José Mourinho’s Chelsea will travel to the Etihad on Sunday to take on a Manchester City team that fell eight points short of claiming the title last season. These two English powerhouses had very different starts to this year’s season; will we see a continuation of one team’s woes, or was match day one just a slight misstep in a title winning challenge?

Last weekend, Chelsea played host to Swansea City. Seven spots separated these two teams last campaign, and Mourinho’s impressive record at home made the match feel like it was going to be just a formality for Chelsea to claim three points. Despite a strong start from the favorites, Swansea managed to come from behind not once, but twice to earn an unexpected draw at Stamford Bridge. The major storyline of the match, however, was Thibault Courtois’ red card that gave up the penalty kick for Swansea to equalize. Due to the red card, Courtois will be forced to watch Sunday’s fixture from the stands while summer signing Asmir Begovic takes the starting role. With the attacking options that City possesses, Begovic looks set for a busy afternoon. Will he make Chelsea fans temporarily forget about their star Belgian, or will the pressure of the big stage cause him to fold?

One of the side stories that emerged after Chelsea’s draw last weekend came from the press conference. With the team already down to ten men, José Mourinho questioned his medical staff’s knowledge of the game when they went on the field to treat an apparent injury to Eden Hazard. The intervention in the match meant that Hazard had to leave the pitch forcing Chelsea to temporarily play with just nine men. Some view Mourinho’s criticism as unwarranted and an obvious to deflect blame for the side’s poor performance. The debate about Mourinho’s comments has raged on throughout the week with trainers from other clubs and even FIFA’s chief medial officer offering their support for Chelsea’s training staff. Mourinho is no stranger to mind games, but it looks as if these comments have added a bit more unwanted publicity than the Portuguese manager was expecting. The added media attention could serve as a potential distraction to the squad in its preparation, and another disappointing performance could leave Mourinho in a very deep hole at the start of the club’s title defense.

While Chelsea struggled in their opener, Manchester City ran rampant. A trip away to West Brom on Monday night saw the Citizens dominate from the start as David Silva scored within the first ten minutes of the match. Just 15 minutes later, it was Yaya Toure who doubled the score with a thumping effort from range. The final dagger came courtesy of a Vincent Kompany header in the second half, and the three-goal victory shot them to the top of the table. An impressive all-around performance from City saw them dominate possession (69 percent) and scoring opportunities (20 shots with seven on target). Of all the title contending clubs, it was City that made the biggest statement of the opening weekend. A second victory over Chelsea would provide even more optimism to City fans and it may make them the early favorite for the title.

There was one notable absentee from City’s starting lineup against West Brom. Last year’s leading goal scorer Sergio Aguero spent the first hour of the match watching from the sidelines before coming on for Wilfried Bony. The Argentine striker told reporters that he is still trying to regain his fitness after a long Copa América run. Despite his late 30-minute cameo appearance, Aguero has cast doubt on his availability for Sunday’s blockbuster fixture. In an interview with the club’s website the striker said, “Whether I start or not remains to be seen. I’m trying to get there and be in top condition.” Last year, Aguero found the back of the net 26 times in league play and his presence on the pitch would immediately open up space for his teammates. The 27-year-old has that special something that forces the opposition to watch him, but if he rushes back into the fold he risks a lengthy injury layoff. While I don’t expect him to start against Chelsea, it’s very likely that Manuel Pellegrini brings him on in the second half to add a new dimension to the attack if things look stagnant. Even with limited minutes on the pitch, Aguero is still fully capable of making something magnificent happen.

I’m a big believer in momentum affecting games, and right now no club has more momentum than Manchester City. Everything looked to be falling in the right place for the club last week, and an early misstep Chelsea could bring some doubt into their squad. As much as I hate City winning, I think they make another statement victory and take another three points. Final score: Man City 3-1 Chelsea.


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