Chelsea and Manchester City lock horns this evening in the first of a high-profile friendly double header in the US and the signs suggest that the deposed Premier League champions will have the edge.
The Citizens have won four and drawn one of their last five encounters with the Blues in all competitions, including last month’s 2-1 FA Cup semi-final triumph at Wembley.
And while it can legitimately be argued that this record is largely irrelevant in the context of tonight’s friendly clash in St Louis, the respective recent results of the two clubs in such fixtures also point to a City victory.
Chelsea played five friendlies ahead of the 2012/13 season and managed just one win, one draw and three defeats, including an embarrassing 3-2 loss to an MLS Allstars XI on their last venture stateside.
By contrast, City were victorious in six of their eight pre-season friendlies, losing only once, and also prevailed when they faced the Blues in the Community Shield last August.
There’s very little separating the duo in the betting, with Chelsea made 29/20 favourites and the draw at 23/10, but City must be the play here at 6/4.
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of staging a tour of the US after such an exhausting campaign – that’s a debate for another day – the lingering effects of Chelsea’s mammoth season will surely see them struggle at the Busch Stadium.
Rafael Benitez’s men have played an incredible 69 games this term, compared to just 52 for City, and that greater freshness for the Sky Blues could be decisive.
In a peculiar way, the news this week that City have signed a reported £66 million deal with the New York Yankees baseball team to create a new MLS franchise in the Big Apple may also be a telling factor.
Sheikh Mansour and the club’s wealthy owners are determined to establish the club as a major brand in the US and it would be no surprise if they instruct caretaker boss Brian Kidd to field his strongest possible team.
After all, the near-44,000 tickets for the fixture sold out in 20 minutes and, unlike back home, it has created genuine interest across the Atlantic, so a victory for City with so many eyes on the game is perhaps more important than it is for Chelsea, who are US tour veterans by comparison.
Admittedly, the Blues will have the lion’s share of the support in St Louis and they have also enjoyed the better preparation having been in Missouri since Monday, while City are set to arrive from New York just hours before the game.
But as both teams complete the final formalities of a long, hard campaign and look ahead to the arrival of new managers, the 6/4 on City appears to offer the value and that’s where my money will be going.