Etihad Stadium, Manchester
February 24, 2013; 13:30 GMT
When Chelsea travel to face Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, this match between the second and third placed team on the table may not have any impact of the title race eventually, as Manchester United are 12 points ahead of City and 16 points ahead of Chelsea and are already beyond the reach of either team, although not mathematically. Both Roberto Mancini and Rafa Benitez may be without a job come the end of season, and it is in their best interest to ensure that their respective teams finish the season strongly; they must close the gap at the top of the table as much as they can, finishing second and try to claim a cup competition or two.
Manchester City have gone three league games without a win now, drawing against QPR and Liverpool while losing to Southampton 3-1 in their last game. The only solace has been a 4-0 win over Leeds in the FA Cup last weekend. City’s home form, however, has been impeccable as after losing to Everton in December, 2010, they have lost just once in 42 games and that was against United last September.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will try to win back to back games in the league for the first time this season. They have won four of the last six away games but in the last two have tasted defeat at the hands of Newcastle while they had drawn at Reading from a winning position. In the meanwhile, they have managed to progress in the two cup competitions that they are involved in – FA Cup and Europa League – by finally getting the better of Brentford and Sparta Prague respectively.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Roberto Mancini will be without the services of either Javi Garcia, who missed the match against Leeds, or Gareth Barry, who had to be subbed after picking up an ankle injury. The manager will need one of them to partner Toure in the middle, so in all likelihood, Barry will be played against Chelsea while Garcia would be rested. Captain Vincent Kompany, who has missed the last four games, remains doubtful as he is yet to recover from a calf injury, but given the stature of the game and of the player, it won’t be shocking if he replaces Lescott in the starting line-up. Micah Richards remains sidelined.
Mancini will line his team up in a 4-2-3-1 formation similar to Chelsea’s, with Hart taking his place behind the backline of Clichy, Nastasic, Kompany and Zabaleta. The pivot is expected to comprise of Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, who will play behind Nasri, Silva and Aguero, with Dzeko leading the attack. Carlos Tevez hasn’t been in the best of forms, so the manager may just replace him and start the Bosnian instead.
The presence of Mikel in the Chelsea line-up will undoubtedly add some stability in the Chelsea midfield but City will still try to draw the other players further forward, thereby creating a lot a space in front of the defence for their versatile attackers to capitalize on. Cahill and Ivanovic, in particular, have also been making quite a few uncharacteristic errors in recent games, so Mancini will pin his hopes on the likes of Aguero and Dzeko to bury any chance that the opponents present.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Hart; Clichy, Nastasic, Kompany, Zabaleta; Toure, Barry; Silva, Aguero, Nasri; Dzeko
Oriol Romeu remains to be the only long-term casualty for Chelsea, as the manager has the other players available for selection. Rafa Benitez had rested Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic, Ashley Cole, David Luiz, Eden Hazard and Demba Ba for the Europa League clash, so they will be fresh for the game against City.
Rafa isn’t someone who’ll sway too far away from the tried and tested, so it’s safe to assume that Chelsea will take the field in a 4-2-3-1 system, come Sunday. Cesar Azpilicueta has been playing well and is expected to retain his place in the starting line-up, but Ashley Cole will replace Bertrand at left-back. John Terry and David Luiz may be the chosen centre-back duo for this encounter, in front of the reliable Petr Cech. Frank Lampard is expected to return to the line-up to partner John Obi Mikel in central midfield, with Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Ramires likely to start in front of them. Demba Ba is expected to replace Fernando Torres in the starting line-up.
Ramires may be used on the right wing in this game to counter the treat posed by City’s attacking players, especially Silva and to keep Clichy in his own half. A lot will also depend on whether Mikel and Lampard are able wrest the midfield control from Toure and Barry/Garcia.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Hazard, Mata, Ramires; Ba
- Manchester City are undefeated in 37 of their last 38 home matches in the Premier League.
- Manchester City have been drawing at half time and winning at full time in their last 3 home matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
- Chelsea have won 10 of their 15 Premier League visits to Manchester City but have lost their last three trips.
- The 3-1 defeat by Southampton was only the seventh time they have conceded three goals in a Premier League game under Roberto Mancini. Nonetheless, they still have the division’s best defensive record and have kept an unrivalled 11 clean sheets.
- Edin Dzeko has scored six goals in his last seven Premier League games.
- Juan Mata has been involved in 19 goals (10 goals, nine assists) in 20 league starts for Chelsea this season.
Player To Watch Out For
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
All eyes have been on Frank Lampard ever since the focus had shifted to his contract situation at Chelsea. And, in his typical style, he has raised the bar for himself, scoring 11 goals in 13 Premier League starts this season. He has been in a rich vein of form of late and has scored in his last four successive appearances. He has 199 goals (three behind the Chelsea all-time record held by Bobby Tambling) and is poised to play in his 550th league game this weekend. In all likelihood, he will become the top goal-scorer in the history of this football club before the end of season. What will Chelsea do with this legend of theirs, has been and will be the question on everyone’s mind.
Manchester City 2-2 Chelsea
Both managers are under pressure and may lose their respective jobs in the summer, and neither can afford to drop points against each other, especially with Manchester United threatening to run away with the league title this season. A Chelsea win can take them to within a point of City, while a victory for Mancini’s team can cut the deficit with United to under 10 points, if the Red Devils fumble against QPR. Eventually, neither team may be able to make the most of this game and may cancel out each other in a scored draw.