Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, 21st September 2014; 1600 GMT
The defending champions welcome the best-performing side, thus far this season, home. The teams that will take the field have been assembled at a princely sum running into the hundred thousands of pounds. Two former managers of Real Madrid lock horns in England yet again.
Chelsea come into this encounter with a rather trailblazing streak to their credit, while Manchester City have failed to register a win in their past 3 games. Chelsea do have a minor wrinkle in their run-up to this game, drawing a Champions League game with Schalke that they should have won. But it would seem Manchester City have the relatively bigger woes to contend with, considering Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure have both failed to set the field alight with their talents this season.
The distinguishing mark of big teams is their ability to turn themselves on for the big games, and it seems unlikely on current form that Manchester City will face a bigger challenge this season at home than Chelsea. Form will count for nothing, as Pellegrini’s men look to line up and bring Chelsea crashing and bridge that gap on the points table.
Team news and tactics
Will he, or won’t he? Frank Lampard may get a chance to face his old team, with Stefan Jovetic and Fernando on the sidelines thanks to hamstring and groin injuries, respectively. Fortunately for Manchester City, their star right-back Pablo Zabaleta will be available after suspension and will work desperately to shore the Sky Blue brigade on the right flank, where Chelsea’s left is so ferociously potent.
Edin Dzeko has failed to open his scoring account this season, a fact made all the more painfully apparent by Chelsea’s wealth of goals at present. Yaya Toure, normally City’s and the League’s most reliable player, has not gotten even remotely close to his stratospheric levels of talent. Whether it has to do with personal troubles, as Pellegrini indicated, or with just the Ivorian’s inability to reach match fitness after a tiring World Cup, is yet to be made clear.
With Aguero raring to go, Edin Dzeko with his suspected back problems shouldn’t necessarily find himself called upon. City will pack the midfield as they usually do, with the likes of Fernandinho, Nasri, Toure and others, in a bid to stop the Blues dictating the tempo of the game. City’s best bet is to hit the Blues at the start of the game when Mourinho’s men typically take time to settle in.
Possible lineup (4-5-1): Hart (GK); Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy, Fernandinho, Milner; Nasri, Touré, Silva; Aguero
The Blues have a seemingly perennial worry regarding the injury status of Diego Costa. The Spaniard may have scored 7 goals thus far in just 4 games, but his injury worries have been serious enough to keep him on the sidelines of the Chelsea-Schalke game until brought on as a last ditch attempt to salvage all 3 points.
Mourinho will line his team up in a 4-3-3 to surprise Manchester City on the counter. Schurrle will likely get the nod over the industrious Willian, while Oscar’s flair will see him join Matic and Fabregas in the middle of the field instead of Ramires. Chelsea will certainly project a lot of strength down their left flank, but may find more reward down the right. Expect Matic to hold back more so than usual, to give Ivanovic the license to assist Schurrle.
The Blue have traditionally relied on their superior defense, but a series of poorly-conceded goals means they are strangely vulnerable at the back than ever before. The onus will be on Chelsea’s front line to score at least one more goal than their defense concedes.
Possible lineup (4-3-3): Courtois (GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas, Oscar; Schurrle, Costa, Hazard
Player to watch out for
Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
The former Chelsea man will be raring to take on his old team in battle. Didier Drogba said it best when he suggested Lampard would have a tough time facing his former friends, but everyone expects the Englishman to show nothing but professionalism if he does come on. Frank Lampard is likely to get at least a round of applause from the traveling faithful. It remains to be seen what his reaction will be to a City goal, especially one that he’s created or scored, but tradition would indicate a rather subdued moment from the former Chelsea vice-captain.
- Manchester City have collected 12 yellow cards, more than any other team in the Premier League this season
- A City win would close the gap between the teams to within 2 points, while Chelsea winning would stretch it to a formidable 8
- Chelsea have had 30 shots on target – a testament to Diego Costa’s and Eden Hazard’s strengths
- The last 3 encounters have seen Chelsea and City share 3 goals each, spread across 2 Chelsea wins and 1 win for Manchester City
Manchester City 2 – 2 Chelsea
It will be a tough away day for Chelsea, but they should do enough to sneak out of the Etihad with a draw. Expect a relatively high-scoring game, considering Chelsea’s defensive troubles and Yaya Toure’s inability to deliver the goods this season.