With the gap between leaders Chelsea and nearest challengers Manchester City standing at five points, they meet in a vital encounter at Stamford Bridge, one which could go some way to deciding who will be lifting the coveted Premier League trophy in May.
Despite suffering the embarrassment of conceding four goals to lose at home to League One Bradford City in the FA Cup, the hosts undoubtedly come into this in better form, and with the delight of having reached the Capital One Cup final thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 aggregate victory over Liverpool.
Therefore it seems a long while since they were last in Premier League action, when the Blues ran riot away to Swansea City in a game which they dominated and produced some scintillating football from start to finish, with Diego Costa and Oscar helping themselves to two goals each.
However, Costa will miss this most eagerly anticipated of games after being banned for his misdemeanours in the second leg with Liverpool. It is a significant setback for Jose Mourinho and his side, but they still have plenty of star quality and have the incentive of stretching the lead at the top.
This is very much a game that Man City cannot afford to lose, but they must find some form from somewhere after they were stunned at home by Arsenal and then tumbled out of the FA Cup at the hands of Championship high-flyers Middlesbrough.
Frank Lampard returns to Chelsea for the first time since leaving at the end of last season, and the reigning champions will be keen to compete well in midfield. Without Yaya Toure, manager Manuel Pellegrini must ensure that his side are not overrun by the industry of the hosts’ Nemanja Matic.
This will also be a great time for Sergio Aguero to start firing on all cylinders again after making little impact on his return to the starting XI against Arsenal. In that game, David Silva was well snuffed out, but should he be given space here, his creativity provides a huge threat.
Aside from Costa, Chelsea have also been dealt a blow with the absence of Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis due to injury.
For Man City, Toure remains at the Africa Cup of Nations along with new signing Wilfried Bony.
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