MANCHESTER — Manchester City’s floundering title defence continues tomorrow in a blockbuster Premier League clash against Chelsea.
Roberto Mancini’s side could feasibly be looking over their shoulder at the third-placed Blues — who trail City by four points — rather than skywards towards runaway leaders Manchester United, who are 12 points clear at the top.
Winless in three in the league, City need victory over Rafa Benitez’s side at Etihad Stadium to build some sort of momentum in an unlikely bid to catch their cross-town rivals, who travel to last-placed QPR.
Chelsea, meanwhile, need to keep winning to sew up their spot in the top three, which would guarantee them a Champions League group stage spot for 2013-14, as they lead Tottenham in fourth by just one point.
The Blues will be buoyed by their late aggregate victory in the Europa League over Sparta Prague in mid-week, while City also gained some goal-scoring confidence with a 4-0 thrashing of Leeds United in the FA Cup after their league loss to Southampton last time out.
Chelsea skipper John Terry said with the way the season is panning out, second spot is in the sights of Rafa Benitez’s men.
“This season has been a little disappointing. We’ve let Man U get so many points ahead of us, but everyone is dropping points and we can still easily get second place,” he said.
“If we can go on a run, with the two boys back from the Africa Cup of Nations (Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel), we have a real chance.”
Absent for Chelsea will be Oriol Romeu, who is sidelined by a knee injury, while City will be without Gareth Barry (knock), Micah Richards (knee) and captain Vincent Kompany (calf). Chelsea have not won at Eastlands since August 2008, when the Blues — then managed by Luiz Felipe Scolari — secured a 3-1 victory. The sides drew 0-0 in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.
Aston Villa loom as the next potential banana skin for Arsenal in what has already been a horror week for the London club.
Arsenal were eliminated from the FA Cup last week by the Championship’s Blackburn Rovers, before Bayern Munich thumped Arsene Wenger’s side 3-1 in their Uefa Champions League Round-of-16 first leg on Tuesday.
Bottom-placed QPR will be in for a tough time as they host Premier League leaders Manchester United at Loftus Road on Saturday.
Harry Redknapp’s side suffered a 4-1 defeat at Swansea in their last league outing — stretching their winless run to five games — as they languish seven points from safety at the foot of the table.