Man City puts unbeaten record on line vs. Chelsea
Updated: December 08, 2011, 07:32
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LONDON(AP) Manchester City is preparing to put the only unbeaten record in this season's Premier League on the line against the club it has deposed as English football's top financial power.
The league leader travels to Chelsea on Monday in the last of this weekend's round of matches needing to recover from Champions League elimination and contend with the partizan Stamford Bridge crowd if it is to stretch its advantage over the fourth-place Blues to 11 points.
But having done what City could not by advancing in the Champions League, Chelsea could yet complicate matters and give second-place Manchester United the chance to close on its local rival.
United hosts lowly Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday, while third-place Tottenham is at Stoke in one of two games Sunday.
Hampered by earlier poor results, City slipped out of the Champions League on Wednesday despite a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich. Manager Roberto Mancini must now lift a squad of players, many of whom joined partly because of the promise of Champions League football.
"For us it will be important to improve in the next six months in the Premier League,'' Mancini said.
That sounds ominous for Chelsea since City has dropped only four points in the Premier League and is unbeaten in its last eight away league games.
Sergio Aguero could add to his 11 goals in 13 Premier League appearances against a Chelsea defense that has already leaked an uncharacteristic 17 goals and kept only four clean sheets. But the Blues have scored three goals in three of their last four matches in all competitions and Didier Drogba recovered his old form on Tuesday with two goals in a 3-0 win over Valencia.
"Didier was fantastic for us,'' captain John Terry said. "We needed a big man to hold it up and give us time to get up, which he did. The manager stressed that a third goal kills them off, which it did, and it was a great third goal from Didi after a great start to get us on the way.
"If he's only 80 percent fit, there's plenty more life in him.''
Drogba could start alongside Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge against City, with Fernando Torres again on the bench.
After elimination by unheralded FC Basel, United needs to get over its own Champions League disappointment and seems to have an easier game.
But Wolves beat United 2-1 in the Premier League last season and United will be without captain Nemanja Vidic after the central defender twisted his knee against Basel.
Mikel Arteta could come up against his former teammates when Arsenal hosts Everton on Saturday, looking for the win that would take the Gunners up to fourth place if Chelsea loses to City.
Also Saturday, Liverpool hosts Queens Park Rangers, Newcastle is at Norwich, Aston Villa is at Bolton, Fulham is at Swansea, and Wigan is at West Bromwich Albion.
League Championship leader Southampton hosts Blackpool in the second tier.