16th August 2015; 1600 BST
Manchester City take on Chelsea FC at the Etihad in a highly-anticipated clash on Sunday, with Manuel Pellegrini aiming to get his first win in the Premier League against Jos Mourinho
Manchester City have got off to a flying start in their newest English Premier League campaign, and will be aiming to make a statement of intent when they take on incumbent champions Chelsea FC at the newly-expanded Etihad stadium on Sunday.
Although the season is still very much in its nascent stage, a win would give Manuel Pellegrini’s men a five-point lead over Jos Mourinho’s Chelsea, meaning the Portuguese would likely have to play catch up for most of the season – not a position he is used to being in.
The Chelsea FC manager’s row with the medical team has only served to exacerbate negative vibes around the team, who began their title defence with a disappointing 2-2 draw against Swansea City at Stamford Bridge.
A result either way so early in the season would not be decisive by any means, but would give the winning team a huge morale-boost for the rest of what promises to be one of the toughest league seasons in recent memory.
Team News and Tactics
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has no major injury worries ahead of Sunday’s meeting with champions Chelsea FC, although new signing Fabian Delph is still sidelined with the hamstring injury he picked up during the Citizens’ pre-season tour of Australia. A late decision will be made on French left-back Ga l Clichy, who continues to recover from an ankle problem.
Brazilian Fernando will not recover in time from his groin injury, whilst the returning Copa Am rica players – particularly star striker Sergio AgA?ero and right-back Pablo Zabaleta – will be in contention for a starting berth on Sunday.
Pellegrini is expected to stick with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Yaya Tour and Fernandinho anchoring the Manchester City midfield, whilst A?49 million man Raheem Sterling as well as Spaniards David Silva and JesA?s Navas will line up behind the striker. In a game of this magnitude, it would be something of a surprise if Sergio AgA?ero did not make an earlier-than-expected return to the Chilean manager’s starting line-up.
For better or for worse, the former Real Madrid manager has never really abandoned his attacking philosophy and will be looking to take the game to Jos Mourinho’s men come Sunday. The pace of Raheem Sterling and JesA?s Navas in particular could be a major issue to a relatively slow Blues’ back-line, and City will try to isolate the wingers against some of Chelsea FC’s slower defenders when possible.
Yaya Tour has made an excellent start to his season and will be looking to provide his characteristic drive from midfield once again. Swansea City did have a lot of space between the Blues’ midfield and defensive lines in their Premier League opener, and David Silva will be looking to take advantage of any such room to orchestrate the Citizens’ attack on Sunday.
Sergio AgA?ero’s return will give Pellegrini’s men a huge boost. The tricky striker will look to drop deep when possible and get involved in play, enabling him to feed the likes of Sterling and Navas who will look to make runs beyond the Argentine.
Eden Hazard is Chelsea FC’s most potent attacking threat, and Navas will have to do his part in helping Zabaleta contain the Belgian wizard. Pellegrini will be aware of the Blues’ counter-attacks and Brazilian international Fernandinho will play a massive role in that regard, acting as a shield for the back four.
Possible starting line-up: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Mangala, Kolarov; Yaya Tour , Fernandinho; Sterling, Silva, Navas; AgA?ero
Jos Mourinho revealed in his press conference that Brazilian international Oscar is a doubt for the game on Sunday following a minor injury in training. Belgian no.1 Thibaut Courtois is suspended after failing to overturn the red card decision that went against him in the Blues’ opener against Swansea City.
Based on recent evidence, Mourinho is likely to approach this game with the aim of avoiding defeat – defeat which would leave Chelsea FC five points behind the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United just two weeks into the Premier League season.
As such, a ‘special’ tactical selection is likely in midfield to contain what is arguably the best attack in the division. Frenchman Kurt Zouma has been used to that effect in the past, and could well partner Serbian midfielder Nemanja Mati to provide an extra defensive presence come Sunday.
The 20-year-old will be looking to mitigate the attacking threat of David Silva – the conductor in the City orchestra – by trying to deny him space and time on the ball in dangerous areas in the attacking third. Zouma’s presence in midfield would mean former Arsenal FC midfielder Cesc F bregas playing in a slightly more advanced position.
Given Chelsea FC will play on the break, the Spaniard’s passing ability will be crucial to release the likes of Eden Hazard and Brazilian Willian, who have the pace to cause the Manchester City back-line some real problems. Set-pieces will also be important for the Blues, given the sheer quantity of tall bodies who could pose an aerial threat – including centre-backs Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill and John Terry, right-back Branislav Ivanovi , anchorman Nemanja Mati and of course, star striker Diego Costa.
Mourinho’s 4-3-3 will likely vary throughout the match depending on the scoreline at that particular time. It is likely that the Portuguese will throw on an attacking body in the form of Victor Moses, Juan Cuadrado or Oscar (if fit) in place of either Zouma or F bregas, or indeed left-back C sar Azpilicueta.
The former Inter Milan manager has often produced his best results with the world against him, and Chelsea FC fans will be hoping Sunday is one such occasion.
Possible starting line-up: Begovi ; Ivanovi , Cahill, Terry (C), Azpilicueta; Zouma, Mati , F bregas; Willian, Hazard, Diego Costa
- Chelsea FC have not lost in the Premier League in the month of August since 2006 – a run stretching 28 league games.
- Manchester City have never beaten Chelsea FC in the Premier League under Manuel Pellegrini.
- Jos Mourinho is yet to lose a Premier League match against a team finishing in the top four since his return to England – including Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Arsenal FC and Manchester United.
- If selected, Spain international Cesc F bregas will make his 50th appearance for the Blues.
- Belgian Eden Hazard is one goal away from completing a half-century of Chelsea FC goals, since joining the Londoners from Ligue 1 side Lille in 2012.
- Manchester City have won their last seven league games, whilst star striker Sergio AgA?ero has nine goals in his last eight.
Player to watch
The Manchester City midfielder was his side’s best performer in their 3-0 win against West Brom at the Hawthorns last Monday, and will be looking to build on that performance when Pellegrini’s men take on Mourinho’s champions at the Etihad on Sunday. At his best, the Ivory Coast international is nearly impossible to contain, and the Blues will have a difficult task on their hands to try and curb his rhythm and drive from the centre of the park. A dominant Yaya Tour on Sunday dramatically increases the Citizens’ chances of coming away from the game with all three points, and for that reason, the former FC Barcelona midfielder is the player to watch in this highly-anticipated fixture.
Manchester City 2 – 0 Chelsea FC
Manchester City will be high on confidence following their opening-day victory and will be looking to take advantage of the Blues’ vulnerable defence. An early goal for the Citizens will force Mourinho’s men to abandon a little of their defensive organisation in search of an equaliser, creating more spaces for the formidable City attack. A home victory is more likely than not on Sunday.