MANCHESTER CITY

V

CHELSEA

Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Wednesday, March 21, 2012; 19:45 Hrs GMT

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.

Wednesday’s crunch match between Manchester City and Chelsea sees both teams desperate for three points, for differing reasons, in a game put back 48 hours due to Chelsea’s FA Cup commitments. City need a win to maintain their title aspirations, after last week losing the top spot in the Premiership after five months in first place. With Manchester United crushing Wolves on Sunday to open up a four-point gap at the top, the pressure is on City to respond, and keep United in sight as Alex Fergusonai??i??s team work their way through a procession of very winnable games. As for Chelsea, the fear is a season without Champions League football, a huge blow to their standing and plans to re-build the side. The title challenge is long gone, along with their manager, but they go into the game in 5th place in the league, three points behind a resurgent Arsenal. The alternative path to qualification is of course to win this seasonai??i??s Champions League competition, but with Barcelona probably standing in their way, their best bet may be overtaking Arsenal.

Team News And Tactical Brief

Manchester City

City’s principle worries lie in central defence. Both Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott have missed recent games through injury, pitching the inexperienced and unconvincing Stefan Savic to take the guard. Both though are close to full fitness, and Roberto Mancini will be praying that at least one of the duo, if not both, is fit for Wednesday.

It would be very hard, if not impossible to accurately predict Cityai??i??s line-up and tactical approach to Wednesdayai??i??s game, as Mancini has tinkered with the side consistently, added to the above injury doubts. A flat back four is certain, with Richards and Clichy taking the full-back spots, with Lescott and Kompany the obvious central defence pairing if passed fit. Futher forward, there are few injury worries, but questions remain over fatigue. The questions will be over what system Mancini will deploy, and who will play upfront. Aguero is an almost certain starter, along with the likes of Silva, Yaya Toure, and probably Gareth Barry too. Elsewhere, it would be guesswork to suggest who features, but the likelihood is that Aguero will play upfront alone, with Silva in support, a player whose form has dipped somewhat due to carrying a niggling ankle injury.

Barry and De Jong would sit in front of the defence allowing Yaya Toure a more offensive role, but De Jong is not guaranteed a starting place, and Milner could come in. Adam Johnson has probably played himself out of a starting place, at least for now. And Mario Balotelli may not be trusted to deliver against this opposition.

Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-1-1) :Ai??Hart; Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy; De Jong, Barry, Yaya Toure, Milner; Silva; Aguero

Probable Starting Lineups

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Chelsea

Chelsea visit the Etihad stadium with a clean bill of health ai??i?? the likes of Terry and Ramires have recovered from injury, and Di Matteo rested quite a few players during the win over Leicester in the FA Cup, making as many as 7 changes to the side that started against Napoli in the Champions League. Roberto di Matteo has preferred a 4-2-3-1 formation in most games, but is not averse to switching to a 4-3-3 or even a 4-4-2, as per the situation at hand.

Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, and Cole are expected to start in defence; however, Luiz may just be preferred over Cahill because of previous exploits against City. A double pivot of Lampard and Essien is likely to not just shield the back-four but also join in the attack, especially Lampard. Ahead of them, Ramires, Mata and Sturridge will look to support Didier Drogba, who is expected to start as the lone centre-forward.

The defence, which had shut out the famed front three of Napoli, will have its task cut out against the fleet-footed attackers of City.

Possible Starting Lineup (4-3-3):Ai??Cech; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Cole; Essien, Ramires, Lampard; Sturridge, Drogba, Mata

The Big Story on The Bench: Carlos Tevez and Fernando Torres

It’s the story of the two outcasts and their return to the fold. The question is what role they will play in Wednesday’s game? It is Torres that is more likely to feature. The A?50m man who had spent over a day’s football trying to find the net finally broke his duck on Sunday, in Chelsea’s 5-2 win over Leicester City in the FA Cup, scoring twice with a couple of assists also. He still may find himself relegated to the bench however with Di Matteo favouring Didier Drogba, but his improvement in general play over the past fortnight or so suggests a possible resurgence, and a role to play against City.

As for Carlos Tevez, the unthinkable might be about to happen. The player no City fan thought would ever pull on the blue shirt again may well find himself in the squad against Chelsea, as hinted at by Mancini last week, should he have regained his fitness. The rumour is he has, and has re-born since his return in his attitude and application. A starting place on Wednesday seems unthinkable, but a place on the bench is a possibility, if not a probability. City’s defeat to Swansea may mean the fans’ reaction to him will have softened, as they realise what he can bring to the team, and that City might just need him.

Key Match Facts

  1. Manchester City have won their last 19 home league games, a Premiership record. They also recently matched Newcastleai??i??s record of winning their opening 14 home league games. In those 14 homes games, they have conceded a mere 6 goals.
  2. Chelseaai??i??s interim manager Roberto Di Matteo has a 100% record so far ai??i?? 4 games, 4 wins.
  3. Chelsea have only won 5 of their 14 away games this season (though City have only won 7).
  4. Chelseaai??i??s leading goal-scorer is a midfielder ai??i?? once more Frank Lampard leads the way, with 13 goals. Drogba has 9, Torres 6.

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

The natural successor to Tevez, the Argentinean has slipped effortlessly into English football since his big money move last summer. Top scorer for City with 23 goals, he especially scores heavily at the Etihad stadium.

Will He Roar Like This Again On The Big Day?

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Didier DrogbaAi??(Chelsea)

Signs aplenty that he is back to his best, the Ivorian will prove a huge test to what might be a makeshift City defence. The winner of this particular contest could have a huge influence on the final outcome.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea

There has been much talk about Manchester City feeling the pressure of an inaugural title challenge, whilst Chelsea have been reinvigorated recently since the departure of Andre Villas-Boas. However, City have turned the Etihad stadium into a league fortress, winning 19 on the bounce, and may well just edge this keenly-fought contest.

TheHardTackle’s Blast From The Past

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5 Responses to “Manchester City v Chelsea – Preview: Will The Blues Maintain The Sudden Rise In Form?”

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  1. Aditya Sharma says:

    As a neutral, I can’t wait for this match!
    Sometime in the final 10-15 minutes , if the match is still in the balance, there’s a (slim) chance that both Tevez and Torres will come onto the field! Should be bloody fun to watch.
    Personally, I don’t see why Mancini would play Tevez when Balotelli is available, not to mention Dzeko.
    Also can’t wait to see who pulls the strings better for his respective side, Silva or Mata.. I’m a big admirer of both.

  2. Joe Doherty says:

    Im hoping for a City win, and although we are at home I’m do worry about this game. Not just because it’s Chelsea but also because of our recent form, which to me seems like a mental problem in the team. I hope Mancini can sort this out. All the effort during the season to be pipped by United is disappointing.
    We can still do it but have a much tougher task ahead. City make things difficult themselves.
    Come on lads. We all believe you can do it and are right behind you. Maintaining a 100% record from now in will only put pressure on United.

  3. coolnad says:

    Chelsea will win 3-2!!

    Man utd will win title!!!

  4. Shivam says:

    cant these man utd fans just follow their own forums/pages, got nthng better to do these days than to cmnt here or there eh? think the world revolves srnd them. go beat bilbao first.