The 2015-16 Premier League season only is entering the second of 38 rounds, but one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season already is here.
Manchester City hosts Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in clash of Premier League titans. Two of the leading contenders to win this season’s title meet in an early season game, which could color the race for the Premier League trophy for weeks or months to come.
Chelsea wrested the Premier League title from Manchester City’s grasp in dominating style last season. Manchester City wants it back. The teams are chock-full of players winners, starting at their respective helms in Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
The normal sniping between Mourinho and Pellegrini has taken a back seat this week to internal tension at Stamford Bridge, as Mourinho remains under fire for his treatment of club doctor Eva Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn. Mourinho’s rift with his medical staff has dominated headlines, but the Blues might benefit from some misdirection.
Few are asking the tough questions about Chelsea’s performance last Saturday in its 2-2 home draw with Swansea City. That result, coupled with Chelsea’s lack of transfer activity and unimpressive preseason results should make us wonder whether Mourinho’s group has the mettle to defend its crown.
Manchester City stormed out of the gate, delivering a commanding performance in its 3-0 win over West Brom on Monday. Pellegrini’s team will offer Chelsea the stiffest of tests, and the Chilean tactician should feel fortunate this meeting is taking place so early in the season.
Chelsea and Manchester City both have questions up front. Chelsea striker Diego Costa missed the Swansea City game due to ongoing hamstring issues. He’s questionable for Sunday’s game. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero came on as a second-half substitute in his team’s win over West Brom. Aguero started the preseason late, having represented Argentina at the 2015 COMNEBOL Copa America. The game could be missing some sparkle if Loic Remy and Wilfried Bony start as lone strikers for Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively.
There’s no question surrounding the availablitly of Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was sent off against Swansea City. The FA rejected Chelsea’s appeal, and Courtois will watch from the stands as his team takes on Manchester City. Asmir Begovic likely will start in goal for the Blues opposite Joe Hart.
Liverpool vs. Bournemouth
Liverpool still is buzzing following its season-opening win over Stoke City. The Reds host Bournemouth at Anfield in the second round of league play. Liverpool has no news to report on the injury or suspension front and it should turn on the style against the newly promoted Cherries.
Premier League Round 2 schedule (home team listed first, all kickoff times ET):
Friday, Aug. 14
Aston Villa vs. Manchester United, 2:45 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 15
Southampton vs. Everton, 7:45 a.m.
West Ham vs. Leicester City, 10 a.m.
Swansea City vs. Newcastle, 10 a.m.
Sunderland vs. Norwich City, 10 a.m.
Tottenham vs. Stoke City, 10 a.m.
Watford vs. West Brom, 10 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 16
Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal, 8:30 a.m.
Manchester City vs. Chelsea, 11 a.m.
Monday, Aug. 17
Liverpool vs. Bournemouth, 3 p.m.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@ChelseaFC