Will Manchester City return to the top of the EPL or will Chelsea hold them down???

Manchester City host Chelsea on Monday in a clash between the Barclays Premier League’s most potent attack and its meanest defence.

A trip to the Etihad Stadium has become one of the most daunting prospects in English football, with City having won 17 of their 18 matches there in all competitions this season, scoring 72 goals in the process.

Manuel Pellegrini’s men have won all 11 of their Barclays Premier League fixtures on home soil this term, finding the net 42 times, and their scoring exploits continued on the road in midweek as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-1 at White Hart Lane. That result took City’s total Barclays Premier League goal tally to 68 in 23 matches, and a run of eight consecutive top-flight victories has lifted them a point above Arsenal at the top of the table.

Chelsea sit only three points adrift in third on the back of just one defeat in their last 13 Barclays Premier League outings and much of their success this term has been built on their resilient defence. Jose Mourinho’s side have conceded just three times in eight top-flight fixtures since their last defeat by Stoke City on 7 December and have let in only 20 goals in 23 matches this season while keeping nine clean sheets.

Monday’s match represents the first of two visits to the Etihad in the space of 12 days for Chelsea, as they will also travel to Manchester for an FA Cup fifth-round tie on February 15. Mourinho has insisted he has no intention of simply attempting to avoid defeat in either match.

“Chelsea try to win every game,” the Chelsea manager said. “We are not going to change our philosophy. We are going in a certain direction, and just because we are playing a certain opponent doesn’t mean we are going to change that.”

Chelsea can take heart from their 2-1 victory over City in the reverse fixture in October courtesy of Fernando Torres’ last-gasp winner. Torres will miss this encounter with a knee problem, as will City’s goalscorer on that occasion, Sergio Aguero, who is sidelined after picking up a hamstring problem in the win at Spurs. Samir Nasri (knee) and Javi Garcia (knock) are both also unavailable to Pellegrini.

With the exception of Torres and long-term absentee Marco van Ginkel (knee), Mourinho has a fully fit squad, and new signing Mohamed Salah could be in line for his debut, albeit probably from the bench.

Manchester City (from): Hart, Pantilimon, Wright, Boyata, Clichy, Demichelis, Kolarov, Kompany, Lescott, Nastasic, Richards, Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Milner, Navas, Rodwell, Silva, Toure, Dzeko, Jovetic, Negredo, Nimely.

Chelsea (from): Blackman, Cech, Hilario, Schwarzer, Ake, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Cole, Ivanovic, Kalas, Luiz, Terry, Hazard, Lampard, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Ramires, Salah, Willian, Ba, Eto’o, Schurrle.

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