Manchester City legend Mike Summerbee concedes that Chelsea will have a fitness edge in the race for the Premier League title ahead of the sides’ blockbuster meeting on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte will go head-to-head in a hotly anticipated clash of styles, with Chelsea having recently displaced early front-runners City at the top of the league thanks to seven straight victories in the Italian’s favoured 3-4-3 system.
City boss Guardiola has chopped and changed formations this season as he has got to grips with his players, as well as juggling their domestic campaign and Champions League duties.
After their Premier League title defence imploded last term, Chelsea are not faced with continental commitments in 2016-17, something Conte has highlighted as an advantage as he has imposed a system on the Blues that remains exotic in English football.
Though stopping short of pegging Saturday’s early kick-off at the Etihad Stadium as a title decider – City and Liverpool are just a point behind table-toppers Chelsea – legendary City winger turned club ambassador Summerbee believes the signs from Stamford Bridge are ominous.
Summerbee told Omnisport: “I think we’re talking a little bit prematurely about title races, it’s very early days. But Chelsea have come out and they’re doing very, very well under this newmanager.
“But what we have to look at as well is that they’re not in the Champions League. From one week to another… when they come into the FA Cup, fair enough, but the Champions League is very demanding and we’re in that.
“It does help a side like Chelsea, with a new manager, to not be in the Champions League and look forward to one game a week to lift the side.
“For us it’s very different, playing game after game after game. Being in the Champions League is fantastic. I’m not saying anything against it but it is an advantage for a side not in the Champions League challenging for a top-four place.”
By contrast to Conte, Guardiola comes into the Saturday’s meeting having had a full week to prepare for a game for the first time since the opening weekend of the Premier League season.