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Talking Points: Will Toure get the better of Matic?

The biggest game of this new Barclays Premier League season is almost here but where will the game be won and lost?

Here are five things to look out for on Sunday afternoon…

Toure versus Matic…

Balance on both sides of the ball will be crucial to City’s chances on Sunday and the manager has been keen to stress the importance of the team as a collective rather than as two separate entities.

Defending as a team and attacking as a team is vital against a side of Chelsea’s quality and the midfield battleground was certainly crucial in the two 1-1 draws at the Etihad in 2014/15.

In the game at the Etihad, Nemanja Matic was imperious in neutralising the influence of Fernandinho and Yaya Toure and the pair weren't helped by the fact that they were so frequently dragged out wide to double up on Footballer of the Year, Eden Hazard.

This time, one would imagine City will go with three in the middle in a bid to have more control of the game and, with Yaya looking like he’s ready to take on the world at The Hawthorns, we could be set up for an epic battle with Matic.

However, it would be over-simplistic to reduce the game to a battle between two players...

In Navas and Sterling, the home side will also have two wingers well-versed in tracking back to help those behind them, so you’d imagine Pellegrini’s side will have the balance to give them a platform for a good result.


Recent history is with the visitors…

The weight of pre-match stats and precedents are with Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea.

City haven’t beaten the Londoners in any competition since 2014’s FA Cup meeting and the last league win was in February 2013.

Jose Mourinho has got the better of Manuel Pellegrini seven times in 12 meetings (D3) and there’s also the month of August to consider...

Chelsea are historically strong starters and have not lost a game in the eighth month of the year in 28 (W23 D5) – an incredible run which stretches all the way back to 2006.

In all, City have won only two of their last nine against Chelsea in the Premier League (D3 L4).


Not a decider…

With just one game of 37 ticked off, it’s much too early to be talking about title deciders at this embryonic stage of the season.

However, it could be an important psychological advantage for City if they can claim the victory at the weekend as it would give Manuel Pellegrini’s side a five-point advantage over the reigning champions.

Last season, City were always chasing the pace-setters and although they clawed back the deficit to have an identical record at the turn of the year, there is a cerebral difference being the team in control of your own destiny.

With games against Everton and Watford to follow before the first international break of the season, there is an opportunity there to lay down an early marker to our title rivals.

Just don’t call it a decider!


Copa America quartet…

Of the four City players who travelled to Chile for the summer’s Copa America tournament, only Pablo Zabaleta saw no action against West Brom.

In his absence, Bacary Sagna turned in what was arguably his best performance in a sky blue shirt so far, however, Pablo (red card last season aside) has a good record of putting in a shift against Chelsea, so it will be interesting to see which of the right-backs will be fielded.

One of Eliaquim Mangala’s best performances for City came in this fixture last season but will the youngster keep out the returning Martin Demichelis?

Up top, Kun Aguero told us yesterday that he’ll take no chances in coming back too quickly and Wilfried Bony did a fine job in holding the ball up against the Baggies, leaving his manager with another selection dilemma to negotiate on Sunday morning.


Courtois cover…

Thibaut Cortouis’ appeal against the three-game suspension doled out to him for his challenge on Bafetimbi Gomis on the opening day may have been rejected but the visitors have an experienced replacement to call upon.

Asmir Begovic is no stranger to the Etihad Stadium having played there on many occasions in his five-year association with Stoke City.

In fact, the Bosnian stopper became one of just two goalkeepers to keep a clean sheet at the Etihad in 71 games last season when the Potters beat City away from home for the first time since 1997.

He only conceded once at the Etihad in the previous campaign, so Chelsea are not much weaker for having their first-choice goalkeeper suspended.

Last few tickets and hospitality remaining for City v Chelsea. Don’t miss this exciting home season opener and buy your ticket or hospitality now. This match also sees the official opening of the newly expanded South Stand. Supporters are asked to take their seats at least 15 minutes before kick-off so they can be a part of the South Stand opening.

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