Manchester City (+275) at Chelsea (-110), Draw (+260)
Two traditional Premier League powers will meet in the fifth round of the FA Cup this Sunday as Man City visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London (11:00 AM Eastern).
City, who currently sit fourth in the EPL, missed two big chances to put things back in order, losing back-to-back games against Leicester (1-3) and Tottenham (1-2). They now trail the league-leading Foxes by six points.
With the EPL title looking farther out of reach than ever before, City needs a win in the FA Cup to prove they are still a top team in England. But manager Manuel Pellegrini indicated that the team’s Champions League ambitions will likely take precedence.
“My way is to try and play in every competition with the best team,” Pellegrini said in a pre-game press conference. “I think [the FA Cup] is a serious competition and not a competition you can throw away. But … with so many injured players and the chance to … get to the Champions League quarter-final for the first time, I think it’s a case where we are going to prioritize.”
Pellegrini’s ominous words and City’s recent struggles have the team as heavy road underdogs against Chelsea. The Blues’ season started out disastrously; they were hovering around the relegation zone circa Christmas. But they’ve played much better in the EPL since then and, like City, are still alive in the Champions League, as well.
That might not be the case for long, as they fell 2-1 at PSG on Tuesday (the first loss for the team under manager Guus Hiddink). The loss to PSG put more pressure on the team to stay alive in the FA Cup. They aren’t likely to earn a spot in a European competition by virtue of their EPL record at the end of the season. An FA Cup title would at least net them a spot in next year’s Europa League.
Chelsea are suffering from injury concerns of their own, though. Captain and center-back John Terry is doubtful to play against City due to a hamstring injury.
“He started training on Monday but it was not good,” Hiddink told London 24. “We must be careful. We must not go into a situation where he will drop back again for a longer period.”
The teams last played in the FA Cup in 2014 when City won 2-0 at home. The Citizens also smashed the Blues, 3-0, at Etihad Stadium earlier this season in EPL action. But Chelsea had been riding high before the setback to PSG, going undefeated in 11 straight (all competitions). Don’t expect many goals, but take Chelsea to win by one score in a game that should have a furious pace.
Pick: Chelsea (-110).
(Photo credit: Ben Sutherland (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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