The Premier League has had plenty of storied rivalries over the years but one between the nouveau riche is threatening to overshadow them all.
Chelsea, the dominant power in the capital for the last decade or so and the upstarts from Manchester City, the ‘noisy neighbours’ who are threatening to paint the industrial city blue.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
City’s £35 million signing Ederson is shaping up to be a fine goalkeeper but what Courtois has done in the past few seasons for Chelsea is undeniable.
The Belgian shot-stopper may not make jaw-dropping saves regularly, but is a safe pair of hands and deserves the nod ahead of the young Brazilian.
Left-Back: Marcos Alonso
Critics will say Alonso benefits greatly from Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system and the players around the Spaniard make him look good, but the fact remains that since last year, the Blues have possessed the Premier League’s best left-back.
Alonso has notable flaws in his game, a lack of pace being an obvious one, but his crossing and set-piece deliveries more than make amends.
Benjamin Mendy, another expensive City acquisition, made waves since his arrival but a knee injury has ruled him out for a while and as of now, City do not have a back-up left-back.
Centre-Back: Gary Cahill
John Terry’s departure in the summer had left many Chelsea fans wondering whether their team would be able to cope without their legendary captain but if we are being honest, Cahill was already filling in his compatriot’s shoes for a while now.
Cahill is a solid, dependable central defender and ever since his move to Stamford Bridge in 2012, has steadily improved across the seasons.
Both John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi are talented defenders, perhaps more so than the 31-year-old Cahill, but the fact that neither of them are confirmed starters when Vincent Kompany is fit doesn’t do their reputation any good.
Centre-Back: David Luiz
Considering City have the likes of John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi and the excellent Vincent Kompany, this may seem an odd selection, but there can be no denying that Luiz has, at least in his second tenure in the capital, reigned in his self-destructive tendencies.
Luiz, when his head is on straight, can be a fine defender, for he is quick, strong and decent in the air. If nothing else, his entertainment value is off the charts.
On a normal day, Kompany would win this contest hands-down, but the Belgian defender spends far too much time on the treatment table (he’s currently injured too!) to be picked.
Right-Back: Cesar Azpilicueta
In his sixth season at Chelsea, Azpilicueta has become the epitome of consistency at right-back (a position which he no longer plays, admittedly). His versatility, dogged determination and under-appreciated technical ability make him the premier right-back in the English top-flight.
City have a player with bundles of potential in this position, but there can be no denying that Kyle Walker is yet to consistently deliver on his promise.
The Blues faithful may not appreciate this, but the way Azpilicueta churned out performances week in, week out on the flank before being switched to central defence last season was reminiscent of Manchester United legend Gary Neville.
Left Midfield: Eden Hazard
Hazard may not have had the ideal start to the season but after making a measured recovery from ankle surgery, is firing on all cylinders now.
Arguably the best winger in the Premier League and with a strong shout to be the best overall player even, the twinkle-toed 26-year-old is a joy to watch.
Leroy Sane is transforming into a world-class prospect, but doesn’t come close to the Blues’ Belgian wizard, who makes the cut with relative ease.
Central Midfield: N’Golo Kante
Kante is one of those players who has benefitted greatly from the influx of statistics that are available in the beautiful game. He may not get the assists or the goals, but certainly will run his socks off every game and his presence allows his more attack-minded teammates to express themselves.
An under-appreciated cog of Chelsea’s (and Leicester the season before) title-winning side last season, the diminutive Kante would be a boon for any side in the English top-flight.
City’s destructive presence in midfield, Fernandinho, simply is not in Kante’s league (without any disrespect). Had Ilkay Gundogan kept fit, perhaps Kante’s position would have been in danger, but as things stand, the German continues to spend more time in the physio room than he does on the football pitch.
Central Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
One of the biggest stars of Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’, KDB is blossoming into a world-class midfielder under Pep Guardiola. The 26-year-old, currently playing as a deep-lying midfielder aka ‘quarterback’, for City, is one of the main contenders to win the assists race this season.
Despite playing a deeper role than he is used to, De Bruyne’s pin-point deliveries continue to wreak havoc among opposition defences but the Belgian means so much more to City than mere assists.
Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas essays a similar role for the defending champions but even the most ardent of Blues fans would admit that De Bruyne is an upgrade in almost every department over the Spaniard.
Right Midfield: Raheem Sterling
Sterling remains a divisive player, for despite his tremendous speed and work-rate, the English winger’s end-product often is found lacking. Having said that, it’s easy to forget the former Liverpool man is still only 22 and has plenty of upside to his game.
An upside, which we have witnessed this season already for the Jamaican-born winger, has emerged into a genuine goalscoring threat under Guardiola.
Chelsea have a player with similar attributes in Pedro, but one would argue that the Citizens just about hold the edge on the right flank.
Centre Forward: Sergio Aguero
Already the highest scoring non-EU player in Premier League history and all set to become Manchester City’s all-time top scorer, there’s no denying that Sergio Aguero is a one-off player.
Pep Guardiola may not like his playing style but the fact that the diminutive Argentine can dance past a bevy of defenders and score a golazo anytime he wants makes him impossible to ignore.
City have an excellent striker for the future in Gabriel Jesus, but for the moment the wily Argentine is head and shoulders above the rest of the league’s forwards.
Centre Forward: Alvaro Morata
Diego Costa, who?
Alvaro Morata may not like the constant comparisons, but the £60 million man is already making Chelsea fans forget his compatriots’ departure.
Six goals in as many games (including a memorable hat-trick at Stoke last weekend) suggest the 24-year-old is indeed the real deal.
Excellent in the air and clearly proficient with the ball at his feet, the tall and graceful Morata seems tailor-made for the Premier League.
Final Score: Chelsea 8, Manchester City 3