Stamford Bridge, London
October 27, 2013; 16:00 GMT
Chelsea will host Manchester City this Sunday is what surely will be the biggest home game for Jose Mourinho since his return to West London. The fine form of Arsenal and Liverpool notwithstanding, many consider that the title will be fought between City and Chelsea at the business end of the season and this weekend will provide the first glimpse of how the two contendors match up to each other.
Ever since that shocker of a defeat against Basel in Champions League, Chelsea have slowly but surely regained their form and have started to function as a well-oiled machine. Things are far from perfect, but Mourinho would be fairly pleased with the progress his team of old warhorses and young talents has made in the last month and a half. Top of their Champions League group and second in the league is a stable platform to build for the rest of the season and that the game against City is a perfect opportunity to make a statement of intent.
Man City, under Manuel Pellegrini, have been an interesting team to analyse. They have been mostly imperious at home (mostly, because of the meek surrender to Bayern in Champions League), dispatching Manchester United 4-1 in the big game in September, but have fallen apart in the most unlikeliest of scenarios on their trips; defeats at Cardiff and Aston Villa were unexpected to say the least. Of late, they have picked up two away wins at West Ham and CSKA Moscow, but the trip to Stamford Bridge will be a different proposition altogether.
Team News & Tactical Brief
With Ashley Cole injured, Mourinho first used Bertrand and then Azpilicueta at the left-back position but neither was able to inspire enough confidence for a challenge as big as the one City are poised to provide. Fortunately for Mourinho, he might not have to chose between the two as Cole is expected to make his return on Sunday. Marko van Ginkel and Thomas Kalas, however, remain sidelined due to injury.
So far this season, Mourinho has depended on the 4-2-3-1 system from the start and has occasionally switched to three at the back formation while chasing games to induce chaos and then capitalize on counters, when the opposition commits more men forward, sensing an opportunity. By using this high risk, high return philosophy, Mourinho has at least got 4 more points than he otherwise would have at this moment. Against City, however, such an approach might not be forthcoming and Chelsea would like to drive home the advantage early, scoring sooner and then remaining organized for the rest of the game.
Cech will unquestionably start in goal, with the reinvigorated Terry and Luiz forming the central defence. Ivanovic will continue at right back, while Cole is expected to make his return from injury. Mourinho is expected to start with Lampard and Ramires in the pivot, but Mikel is likely to be brought on in the second half to provide more stability, if Chelsea are in lead. Further up field, Oscar, Hazard and Mata may be given the nod ahead of Schurrle and Willian, as Mata was rested in midweek while Oscar and Hazard have been in fine form. Based on his recent exploits, Fernando Torres is more likely than Eto’o to lead the line for Chelsea.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic; Luiz, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Ramires; Oscar, Mata, Hazard; Torres
If Vincent Kompany isn’t fit enough to face Chelsea, his absence will be a massive blow for Manuel Pellegrini, as without their captain, City are susceptible to mistakes at the back. Martin Demichelis is also doubtful for Sunday.
City use a formation that’s a mix between 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1, because of the movement of their four attackers. Silva and Navas are both expected to start on the left and right wing respectively, but are versatile enough to drift infield to combine with the forwards. The understanding and movement of Aguero and Negredo has been the highlight of the season for City. Aguero can drop deeper to the third band and link-up with Silva and Navas, while he is equally capable of being the furtherest forward, supported by Negredo. Such flexibilty and movement make City a dangerous team to contain, when these four are in full flow. Fernandinho and Toure will be expected to marshall the central midfield behind them.
City’s actual problems lie in defence. Although Hart’s form has improved, the absence of Kompany leaves them vulnerable through the middle. In his absence, Pellegrini fielded Nastasic and Garcia at centre-back, and after a good performance against West Ham, Garcia was quite poor in Russia. The manager is expected to field Lescott alongside Nastasic, if the captain fails to regain fitness in time. Zabaleta and Koralov will start at right and left back respectively.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Nastasic, Lescott, Koralov; Fernandinho, Toure, Navas, Silva; Ageuro, Negredo
- Jose Mourinho is unbeaten in 64 Barclays Premier League home games as manager of Chelsea (W50 D14).
- Since losing their first Premier League home game of 2013 (0-1 v QPR), Chelsea have won 11 and drawn two of the PL matches at Stamford Bridge.
- Man City have won just two of their previous 16 Premier League trips to Stamford Bridge (L10 D4), with both victories ending 4-2 (Jan 1993 and Feb 2010).
- Man City have won 6 of their last 7 matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
- Chelsea have seen over 2.5 goals in their last 3 matches against Man City in all competitions.
*Statistics courtesy Whoscored.com and Eurosport.yahoo.com.
Player (s) To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Having started the season in a lackadaisical manner, Eden Hazard is close to regaining his top form for Chelsea. He has scored 4 goals in his last three games and is looking sharper by the minute. With City slightly vulnerable at the back, Chelsea will look towards Hazard to put their makeshift defence under pressure, drawing the centre-backs out of position through his movement and beating Zabaleta in one-on-one situations.
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Aguero has, similarly, scored 4 goals in the last 3 games for City and is capable of punishing any mistake that Chelsea commit at the back with devastating effect. David Luiz, in particular, will have to be extremely careful on Sunday (if he plays), and will have to track the Argentine’s movement and link-up play with Negredo closely.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City
The fortunes of both teams are on the upswing and this match comes at the right moment for both sides. Manchester City has done fairly well against Chelsea in all competitions of late and will be confident to take points from this game as well. However, Chelsea appear to be more settled of the two and have been more consistent in the Premier League this season, and thus may just secure a late win in this closely fought fixture.
Blast From The Past