London - Chelsea defender Gary Cahill admits his side's crunch clash with
Manchester City on Monday will be the ultimate test of their Premier League
City swept to the top of the table with a 5-1 demolition of Tottenham in
midweek, while Chelsea lost ground in the title race after being held to a
frustrating goalless draw at home to West Ham.
Jose Mourinho's third-placed team trail leaders City by three points and a
defeat at Eastlands would be a major blow to Chelsea's hopes of winning the
English crown for the first time since 2010.
Mourinho accused West Ham of playing "football from the 19th
century" after the east Londoners settled for a cautious approach in
midweek, but City's dazzling array of attacking talent may force the Chelsea
boss to adopt a conservative game plan himself.
The Blues have already beaten Manuel Pellegrini's side this season when a
Joe Hart error allowed Fernando Torres to a score a late winner at Stamford
Bridge in October.
But City have been in majestic form since then and their five-star display
at White Hart Lane extended their unbeaten run to 20 matches in all
Pellegrini's men have scored a remarkable 115 goals this season and they
have been invincible at Eastlands, crushing all opposition to record a 100
percent record of 11 wins on home turf in the Premier League.
Even the country's best teams have been embarrassed at Eastlands, with
Manchester United conceding four and Arsenal and Tottenham both hit for six.
England international Cahill acknowledges Chelsea, who will move level on
points with City if they win, will have to produce their very best to emerge
from Eastlands undefeated.
"They're banging goals in left, right and centre. It's going to be
really tough," Cahill said.
"We had a really good result against them at our place but at home
they've been so strong.
"I suppose it's the ultimate test. It's going to be a really, really
If City striker Sergio Aguero fails to recover from a hamstring injury,
Pellegrini will choose between Alvaro Negredo or Stevan Jovetic as his
Jovetic replaced Aguero at Tottenham and notched his first Premier League
goal since his £22m transfer from Fiorentina last year.
The Montenegro forward, who is finally fit after battling injury and
illness, warned his team-mates to guard against over-inflated expectations
after a host of pundits this week labelled them champions elect.
"We were really happy after beating Tottenham but we need to stay calm
because nothing is finished," Jovetic said.
"The next one against Chelsea is going to be a crucial game. I hope we
will play like we did against Tottenham.
"At the moment, everything is perfect but we need to do our job as we
did until now and like this we can be successful."
Second placed Arsenal, who host Crystal Palace on Sunday, can't afford
another slip after falling one point behind City following a 2-2 draw at
With City and Chelsea not playing until Monday, the Gunners would
temporarily regain first place if they beat Palace.
"We have to look at ourselves and only think we have to move
forward," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said.
"The kind of performance we delivered at Southampton will not move us
forward, so let's focus to come back on Sunday and produce a good
Manchester United travel to Stoke looking to close the gap on fourth placed
Liverpool in the race to qualify for the Champions League.
United defeated Cardiff in midweek to mark the debut of £37m club record
signing Juan Mata.
And the Spanish midfielder has already made a good impression on his new
team-mates, according to United winger Ashley Young.
"Juan looked like he had been here for years," he said.
"He had only been training for two days and it was his first game but
he has gelled straight away.
"When he has fully settled in he will add something special to the
Newcastle host Sunderland in the highly-charged Tyne-Wear derby, while
fourth placed Liverpool travel to West Brom aiming to build on their 4-0
thrashing of Merseyside rivals Everton.