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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Previewing Chelsea vs. Man City


Wednesday's EPL match between Manchester City and Chelsea (3:30 p.m. ET, live on ESPN2 & ESPN3) features a pair of scuffling powerhouses. After losing at Swansea City on March 11, Manchester City fell out of first place following a round of matches for the first time since October. With new manager Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea sits fifth, in danger of missing out on the Champions League for the first time since 2002-03.

All the drama sets up a tension-filled match at Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. Here are five notes to get you ready for the game:

• With a game in hand, Manchester City trails leader Manchester United by four points. The loss to Swansea City also reduced City to being second-favorite in Soccer Power Index projections. United is a 66.8 percent favorite to win the league, in part because of a remaining schedule that includes only one opponent currently in the top seven: the April 30 derby showdown at City. In addition to that game and Wednesday's match versus Chelsea, City must also travel to Arsenal and Newcastle in its final seven games.

• Chelsea is three points behind Arsenal and four back of Tottenham in the Champions League qualification race. SPI gives Chelsea a 26.1 percent shot at finishing in the top four, well behind Tottenham's 86.8 percent and Arsenal's 85.3 percent. In addition to this game at Etihad Stadium, Chelsea's remaining schedule includes trips to Fulham, Arsenal and Liverpool, leaving the Blues' nine-season run of Champions League appearances in jeopardy.

• Manchester City has won all 14 home league games to start the season, the second-longest top-flight streak in English history. Newcastle set the record by winning its opening 18 games in 1906-07, before drawing its final home match and winning the league. A win over Chelsea would give City the Premier League record with 20 consecutive home wins across seasons, breaking Manchester United's 19-game run that City emphatically snapped in October.

• Chelsea has struggled mightily on the road this season. The club's seven away losses already match its most in a season since 2001-02. The Blues are 0-2-2 in their last four away league matches, scoring a total of one goal during a streak that includes consecutive shutouts at Everton and West Brom. Chelsea hasn't lost three straight road games in league play in nine years.

• Fernando Torres may be back in scoring form for Chelsea. He ended his seemingly interminable goal drought -- 25 hours and 42 minutes, for those not counting at home -- with a brace in the FA Cup against Leicester on Sunday. He still hasn't scored a league goal since Sept. 24 against Swansea City. The run of 16 appearances without scoring is his longest spell in the Premier League.