The stakes will be ever the higher when Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge, in the blockbuster clash of Gameweek 16 on Saturday.
The action continues to come thick and fast in the Premier League, as Gameweek 16 begins on Saturday. The marquee fixture of this weekend’s action will pit the last two top-flight champions against each other, as Chelsea play hosts to Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea have gone off the boil in recent weeks after a strong start to the season, when they had been keeping in touch with Liverpool and Manchester City. But, having managed to win just one of their last four Premier League games, the Blues have dropped off considerably, and are now trailing the league leaders by 10 points.
Manchester City, on the other hand, are only going from strength to strength, as far as the Premier League is concerned. The champions are unbeaten after the first 15 games, only dropping points in two games. And, while their recent performances haven’t quite been emphatic, Pep Guardiola’s men remain the team to beat in the top-flight.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a 1-0 win for Manchester City, with former Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne scoring the winner. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri does not have many injury problems hampering his preparations for the visit of Manchester City. While the Chelsea boss is sweating over the fitness of Alvaro Morata, his major concern will be sorting out the obvious problems all over the pitch.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has been impressive for the most part, and the Spaniard will need to be at his best to help Chelsea grab at least one point, if not more. The backline though, has posed all sorts of problems lately. David Luiz has looked susceptible, but his replacement in the midweek, Andreas Christensen was not much better.
Luiz should return to the starting lineup on Saturday, but Manchester City could well target him after his exposure. Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta will have to marshal the backline and keep their markers in check, while Marcos Alonso needs to rediscover the creative edge in the final third.
Midfield has its fair share of problems as well. N’Golo Kante has been far from his best in the new role in Sarri’s system, not showing the required positional awareness to play as a box-to-box midfielder at times. Jorginho though, will need to step up against a side that tailed him for a long time before he joined Chelsea.
Tottenham exposed a major chink in his armoury, and on an evening when he might not enjoy a lot of possession, he could struggle. The third slot in midfield, meanwhile, is a toss-up between Mateo Kovacic, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and the fit-again Ross Barkley. Kovacic is likely to get the nod, although he too, needs to improve.
Upfront, Eden Hazard is nailed on at the left flank. Pedro should replace Willian on the opposite flank after the Brazilian’s disastrous performance against Wolves. The focal point of the Chelsea attack though, is likely to be Olivier Giroud, whose hold-up play will be key in bringing the best out of Hazard.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Pedro, Giroud, Hazard
Pep Guardiola has a number of injury concerns ahead of the trip to the capital. On Saturday, the Manchester City boss could be without as many as five first-team players, with the absence of a couple of them, in particular, being a cause for concern.
These major absentees are Benjamin Mendy (knee) and Sergio Aguero (groin). Mendy’s absence means Guardiola has to revert to using Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, who is likely to return after being rested in the midweek. The manager will rely on the duo for width in attack, with the full-backs overloading the midfield area, allowing the likes of David Silva and Bernardo Silva to move forward to join in on the attack.
The unavailability of Aguero, on the other hand, leaves Gabriel Jesus as the only striker. With the Brazilian international not exactly impressing much this season, Sane and Sterling will have to shoulder greater responsibility to score the required goals.
Kevin De Bruyne remains unavailable as well. But, Bernardo Silva has been in scintillating form in the absence of the Belgian schemer, with Ilkay Gundogan pulling his weight too. Meanwhile, David Silva will be the chief orchestrator once again, while Fernandinho should provide a powerful presence in front of the backline.
The centre-back pairing is a bone of contention for Guardiola. But, John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have struck a wonderful understanding, and should be persisted with for the big game on Saturday. Meanwhile, with Oleksandr Zinchenko still not fully fit, Fabian Delph should be the left-back once again.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Delph; Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, David Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sane
1. Manchester City to win @ 1.95
2. Over 2.5 Match Goals @ 1.66
1. Manchester City to win to NIL @ 3.60
- Manchester City have been victorious in their last three meetings with Chelsea in all competitions, including this season’s Community Shield, without conceding a goal. The Premier League champions can win four consecutive games against the Blues for the first time on Saturday.
- Chelsea have not lost a Premier League home game against the reigning champions in 11 attempts since being defeated by Manchester United in 2002 (W5 D6).
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 14 away Premier League matches (W11, D3). They have never gone 15 without defeat in the top-flight.
- Manchester City could become the first club based outside London to win seven successive top-flight fixtures in the capital. They have equalled the record of six in a row, set by Portsmouth from December 1950 to December 1951.
- A team managed by Maurizio Sarri has not lost consecutive league matches since October 2016, when Napoli were beaten by Atalanta and AS Roma.
Player to Watch
Since joining Chelsea two years ago, Kante has been Mr. Reliable for the Blues. But, a new role has been detrimental to his assured presence in the middle of the park, with the Frenchman struggling to kill off the half spaces, at times, while not moving the ball forward at the desired pace.
With Chelsea now arguably fighting for a place in the top four, Kante’s output will be key in ensuring they do not drop any more points on Saturday. His task on Saturday – stop Manchester City talisman David Silva, who has pulled the strings effortlessly this season.
If he can stop the supply line for the visitors, Kante might have played a major role in a big result for the stuttering Blues.
Chelsea 1-2 Manchester City
Four wins in ten games is not exactly a great result. But, that is the reason why Chelsea have gone from being possible title contenders to slogging it out to remain in the top four. The defeat at the hands of Wolves in the midweek was especially damning, and the Blues come into Saturday’s big game with no momentum.
The Manchester City juggernaut, meanwhile, just cannot be dropped, with Pep Guardiola making his side the masters of prevailing in games against fellow ‘Big Six’ sides. The Premier League champions also have a few records in their sights, which always spurs them on to better things.
While it should definitely not be as easy a game as some of their recent outings in the league, Manchester City have more than enough quality to overrun the struggling Chelsea side. The Hard Tackle predicts an eye catching clash between the two blues, with Pep Guardiola & co. winning a close contest.