STAMFORD BRIDGE, London
March 20, 2011; 09:30 pm, IST
Defending champions Chelsea will host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on this Sunday, in a bid to break the Sky Blues’ stranglehold on them in recent times.
Despite a fine run of form of late, which includes just a solitary defeat in the last five games, Chelsea have not enjoyed playing against City ever since they were taken over by their new Arab owners. Chelsea managed to lose on all of their last three meetings. The Blues ace striker Drogba said “The last games were very difficult against them. When they won against us, I think they deserved it. Every time they won, they deserved it”. But the defending champions approach this as a new game and Chelsea should have taken the game against FC Copenhagen as an opportunity to shake off their rusty attack. Instead, they stuttered past the Danish side in midweek, with most observers questioning the commitment of Drogba and the ability of Torres, both of whom failed to find the net yet again. Carlo Ancelotti’s men are presently at fourth place, only two points behind City with a game on hand. A victory is long overdue against their opposition, a victory which help them leapfrog City to third place in the league table.
Mancini’s men are going through a tough time as well. The Citizens failed to qualify to the next round of the Europa League, inspite of the fact that they played the second leg at their own backyard. City has been very inconsistent, having failed to win consecutive games since the turn of the year. They have managed to win twice in their last six fixtures. Their record on the road has not been up to the mark, having won a single game in last five away fixtures. The good news for their fans is that City have conceded only 25 goals this season, making them the second meanest team in the league.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Alex is back in training but he will not be part of this game. David Luiz and Terry will share the duty of the centre half, Ivanovic and Cole as fullbacks. Torres is yet to break the duck in front of goal but he is expected to return to the first team. Essien and Malouda are also expected to be back in place of Zhirkov and Mikel. Drogba, who has failed to fire for the ninth straight game since Torres’ big money transfer to Chelsea, might start the game on bench and Anelka might partner Torres up front.
In a recent interview Ancellotti has mentioned that he is wary of counter-attacks from Mancini’s men, “All three games we lost against Man City we have lost due to counter attacks.” Since the arrival of Torres, Ancelotti has been playing with a normal 4-4-2 than the earlier diamond, giving them a run of positive results. The midfield is not as narrow as it used to be and the fullbacks get enough support from the wide midfielders while attacking or tracking back. Essien will be the ball winning midfielder and Lampard to fulfill a proper box-to-box role. Ramires and Malouda will offer width and support to the attacking fullbacks Cole and Ivanovic.
Probable Starting Line-up(4-4-2): Cech(GK), Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole, Malouda, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, Anelka, Torres.
Mancini will have his task cut out in trying to boost his team’s morale following their exit from the Europa League. Their striker Mario Balotelli was sent off following a careless high-booted challenge. Balotelli has already apologized for his behaviour but Mancini is expected to drop him from the squad that plays against Chelsea on Sunday. Dzeko is yet to score his first Premier League goal and is likely to feature alongside Tevez. Both Milner and Johnson are eyeing a return to action. Milner is expected to start while Johnson will have a role to play later on.
Mancini is known to conjure up a good defensive organization. He is expected to lineup a four-men midfield with Toure and De Jong playing the role of defensive midfielders and to break down Essien or Lampard’s run down the centre. Barry and Milner to give the midfield width. Richards and Kolarov to play a more defensive roles as fullbacks and lead the attack on counters through the wings. Tevez has not scored more than a goal in his last ten games in all competitions but Mancini will look to his number one striker for inspiration.
Probable Starting Line-up(4-4-2 Def): Hart(GK), Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov, Barry, De Jong, Toure, Milner, Dzeko, Tevez.
1) Manchester City have won only once in the last eight away games in all competitions.
2) Carlos Tevez has scored six times in five previous meetings against Chelsea.
The HardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For:
Carlos Tevez(Manchester City)
Mancini’s main man
Tevez is currently going through a lean phase, having scored only one goal in his last ten games. But despite his goal-drought, he is expected to start this game. He has maintained a good goal scoring record against Chelsea, having scored six goals in five gaes against them. To gain the upper hand over Chelsea, Manchester City needs Tevez to fire. He is our player to watch out for in this game.
The HardTackle’s Prediction:
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester City
Both teams will be cautious in their approach. Mancini’s men will sit back to let Chelsea attack and hit them hard on counters. Chelsea, on the other hand, are not playing with a narrow midfield anymore. Even on counters, their central midfielders will be ready to break down movement down the middle and their wide midfielders will provide support to the fullbacks to keep a check on counters down the flanks. All in all, it is going to be a match of equals and will most likely end in a stalemate.
The Hardtackle’s Blast From The Past: