South West London is the stage for the standout fixture of the new football calendar year when two of the biggest names in the English game, Chelsea and Manchester City collide. Frank Lampard whose side, Chelsea is the host team, welcomes another longtime rival from the North Eastern part of England in Manchester City coached by one of the all-time greats, Pep Guardiola in the latest instalment of the Premier League.
Lampard, a former Chelsea great himself who left as the club’s all-time leading scorer, with 211 goals scored in all competitions, would love nothing more than to get the better of his Spanish opposite number who has turned the team from the blue half of Manchester into perennial title contenders.
The 42-year-old former England midfielder has fond memories of his last home meeting against City as he watched his side power to a 2-1 win over the former champions on June 25, 2020 when the league resumed after the COVID- 19 induced lock down.
However, Lampard’s coaching credentials have c o m e under scrutiny i n recent weeks following poor performances especially away from Stamford Bridge. Although the league is yet to reach the halfway stage, many pundits are already suggesting that he might not be around till the end of the season, because the powers that be are uncomfortable with the fact that despite spending more than £200 million last summer the team is not challenging for the title. And last Monday another insipid display saw the Blues drop more points after they could only muster a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa, prompting Lampard to say afterwards: “A few weeks ago people were talking about us as title challengers, now it’s a difficult period.” But then he will not find any favours from his opposite number as Guardiola is also desperate to reclaim the title, which he last won 2019, and needs to get his wards playing like they did when they won backto- back titles (in 2017-18, 2018-19) if he is to add to his impressive trophy cabinet room.
From all indications, Lampard will set his team to sit deep and hope to counter because he is pragmatic enough to know that he will not be able to match the visiting side in terms of ball possession.
This should ensure that Chelsea fans should be in for treat of entertaining football as their side attempts to counterpunch the Citizens. In other ties today, two struggling teams kick off the sequence at Turf Moor where Burnley host Fulham while Leicester City travel to St. James Park to face Newcastle United. Week 17 action concludes tomorrow night with another mouth-watering tie at Saint Mary’s where Southampton welcomes the champions, Liverpool.