Pep Guardiola takes his Manchester City side to the Stamford Bridge to face Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Wednesday in the Premier League.
Chelsea are yet to crowned champions for the current Premier League season. And their latest defeat to Crystal Palace have given the others a glimmer of hope of mounting a great comeback to dethrone the Blues before the end of the season.
Manchester City drew 2-2 with Arsenal over the weekend and find themselves 11 points adrift of Chelsea. But, a win could see them shrink the gap down to just 8, with Tottenham having the prospect of moving to within 4 points of Chelsea.
The game is of paramount importance to both sides as we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at the fixture.
Team News & Tactics
While most of the doubtful players have regained fitness and are available for selection, perhaps the most significant miss will still be Victor Moses, who remains a doubt for the fixture. Conte deployed Pedro in a more withdrawn role in an attempt to replace Moses, a tactical gamble that proved futile.
And the Italian could very well look towards Willian to take Moses’ place with Pedro reinstated as part of the front-three, alongside Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Conte started three central midfielders over the weekend and is likely to drop one of them.
Cesc Fabregas’ form could very well see him being picked over Nemanja Matic while N’Golo Kante looks like a guaranteed starter under the Italian. The rest of the starting eleven is likely to stay the same and it would be interesting to see how Conte decides to neutralize the attacking threat posed by City.
Probable Lineup ( 3-4-3 ): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Willian, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Pedro, Costa, Hazard
Manchester City FC
The Citizens have two long-term absentees in Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus, barring whom none of the players are reported to be on the sidelines for Pep Guardiola’s side. Bacary Sagna, however, is struggling with fitness and is a doubt for the game, which could see Pablo Zabaleta take his place on the right side of the defence.
There is speculation that Guardiola may deploy a similar formation to Chelsea in order to neutralize the extra man in attack for the Blues. However, we feel that Pep is likely to stick with a back four in order to provide a bit more steel to the defence.
Guardiola started Jesus Navas in the right-back position but, keeping in mind Chelsea’s attacking prowess, he may opt for a more natural option in Zabaleta.
Elsewhere, the starting lineup is likely to largely stay the same, with Sergio Aguero set to lead the attack once again. However, with there being around 72 hours difference between the two fixtures, Guardiola might just decide to rotate the wingmen, if he feels so.
Probable Lineup ( 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1 ): Caballero; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
1. Over 10.5 Corners @ 1.83
2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.57
3. Sergio Aguero to score anytime @ 2.10
4. Diego Costa to score anytime @ 1.90
1. Over 0.5 Cards in First 10 Minutes @ 5.50
2. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.50
1. Each of their last four meetings in all competitions have seen 3 or more goals in total.
2. Manchester City are undefeated in their last eight Premier League games, including draws against Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal.
3. Sergio Aguero has been City’s big-match player and has an imperious record against Chelsea, with 9 goals and 3 assists in 14 appearances against the Blues.
4. Chelsea is the only club currently in the Premier League and one of only two English clubs against which Sergio Aguero has received his marching orders in his footballing career. ( Bolton being the other side )
5. Sergio Aguero has 2 goals in his last 2 Premier League games while Diego Costa has failed to get his name on the scoresheet in the last two Premier League fixtures for Chelsea.
Player to Watch
It is very difficult to point out one player who could turn out to be the game-changer in any fixture, let alone a fixture which has as many superstars on display as the one we have on our hands. However, we feel it will be the Argentine veteran in goal for Manchester City that might prove to be the difference maker on Wednesday.
Pep Guardiola has reinstated Willy Caballero in goal for Manchester City, a move that has seen the Citizens improve remarkably. The Argentine has started the last seven Premier League games, with City keeping clean sheets in four of those games, conceding a mere 4 goals in the process.
Guardiola would hope Caballero can continue his fine form against Chelsea as well, who are sure to test the 35-year-old, with architects like Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas likely to be in the lineup along with the terrifying presence of Diego Costa upfront.
Even though Chelsea are likely to get the ball behind Caballero, it might come down to a question of how many and some fine saves from the Argentine might just be the difference between a positive result and a negative one for Guardiola & co. on the night.
Chelsea FC 1 – 2 Manchester City FC
We feel this might just be Pep Guardiola’s day and the result might just throw the Premier League title race wide open. The Blues’ recent victories, too, have been rather unconvincing and their latest defeat to Crystal Palace might just start a skittle-like effect on the Blues.
Sergio Aguero is likely to be the one doing the damage but it might not be too surprising to see either of Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva emerge as the main architect of Chelsea’s downfall on Wednesday.