Chelsea will be aiming to consolidate their position in the top four of the Premier League, when they play hosts to Manchester City on Thursday.

The matches continue to come thick and fast in the Premier League as Matchday 31 continues on Thursday with a blockbuster encounter as Chelsea welcome defending champions Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are currently fourth in the league table, but need to be watching over their back as Manchester United reduced the gap to just two points with a 3-0 win over Sheffield United on Wednesday. Frank Lampard’s Blues were impressive last time out, beating Aston Villa 2-1 and will be hoping to carry that momentum forward. A win would also see them come within just a point of third-placed Leicester City.

Manchester City have been in fine form since the resumption of the season. Pep Guardiola’s men have registered back to back wins against Arsenal and Burnley with eight goals scored and none conceded. They, however, remain 20 points behind leaders Liverpool, which could become 23 before kickoff on Thursday. They will be hoping to delay the Reds’ coronation for as long as they can with a win against Chelsea.

The reverse fixture saw Manchester City win 2-1 at the Etihad in November, as Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez found the back of the net after N’Golo Kante had given Chelsea the lead. Ahead of their latest meeting on Thursday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both the teams.

Team News & Tactics

Chelsea

Jorginho returns from suspension (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Jorginho returns from suspension (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Chelsea have no fresh injury concerns heading into the game on Thursday night. However, they will continue to be without the services of academy product Fikayo Tomori, who is recovering from a muscular injury, while Callum Hudson-Odoi remains a doubt with an ankle problem. Lampard could make a few changes to the team that defeated Aston Villa last weekend.

There are unlikely to be a lot of alterations at the back though, with Kepa Arrizabalaga continuing in goal, guarded by the backline of Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso. Although, there may be a case for Reece James to start at right-back to cope with the pace of Raheem Sterling.

In midfield, Jorginho, back from his suspension, should walk right back into the starting XI for Chelsea. The Italian, who has been linked with a switch to Juventus, will likely be partnered by N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic in the midfield trident. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who made his return from a lengthy injury layoff, should be the one making way.

Christian Pulisic came on from the bench to score against Aston Villa, which should earn him a starting berth against Manchester City on Thursday. With him likely to start on the left flank, Mason Mount could drop to the bench, while Willian should hold on to his place on the right.

Olivier Giroud was on target for Chelsea against Villa and should once again feature ahead of Tammy Abraham when the defending champions come visiting.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Kovacic; Willian, Giroud, Pulisic

Manchester City

Manchester City have been dealt a major blow as star striker Sergio Aguero picked up a knee injury against Burnley on Monday night and will not be available for selection. Eric Garcia is also likely to miss out for the visitors, while John Stones and Claudio Bravo remain doubts for the fixture.

Manchester City will be without Sergio Aguero (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Manchester City will be without Sergio Aguero (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Guardiola made as many as eight changes for the game against Burnley and is once again expected to rotate his players on their visit to Stamford Bridge.

There is no looking past Ederson Moraes in goal, but a couple of changes in defence are likely as Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy should return in the full-back slots. Fernandinho should once again start at the heart of the Cityzens’ defence, along with Aymeric Laporte, who ought to replace Nicolas Otamendi.

Rodri should be retained in the holding midfield role by the manager, but there are likely to be changes on either side of him, with Kevin De Bruyne returning to the starting XI, along with Ilkay Gundogan. That would mean, Phil Foden and David Silva, both of whom were brilliant against Burnley, are likely to drop to the bench.

With Aguero ruled out, Gabriel Jesus is certain to step into the centre-forward slot for Manchester City. He is likely to be flanked by Riyad Mahrez, who scored a double on Monday night, and Raheem Sterling, who was an unused substitute.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Fernandinho, Laporte, Mendy; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling

Key Stats

  • Chelsea have alternated between defeat and victory in their last four Premier League home games against Manchester City. They won this exact fixture 2-0 last season.
  • Manchester City have won six of their last nine league matches against Chelsea (L3) – as many as they had in their previous 34 meetings with the Blues (W6 D7 L21).
  • Chelsea have kept just one clean sheet in their last 11 Premier League matches against Manchester City.
  • Manchester City lost their last Premier League game in London – a 0-2 defeat to Tottenham. They have not lost consecutive games in the capital since December 2015.
  • Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud has scored in his last three Premier League starts against Manchester City. Although, the goals came between January 2015 and May 2016, when he was at Arsenal.

Player to Watch

Gabriel Jesus

A chance to shine for Gabriel Jesus. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

A chance to shine for Gabriel Jesus. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

With Sergio Aguero unlikely to feature for the remaining league games following a surgery on his knee, Gabriel Jesus will be the man entrusted to spearhead the Manchester City attack. The Brazilian has often shown this season that he is ready to step into the Argentine’s shoes and the remaining matches will provide him with ample opportunities to drive home that point.

Jesus has 18 goals and 10 assists in 41 matches across all competitions this season. The 23-year-old relishes the trips to London, having either scored or assisted in seven of his eight starts in the capital. Expect him to cause some problems to the Chelsea backline that hasn’t looked assured for most of the season.

Prediction

Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

Chelsea restarted their campaign with a win over Aston Villa. But the Blues have had to deal with problems at the back all season long. Coming up against a rampant Manchester City side, that has scored eight goals in the last two matches could prove to be a daunting task for the Blues. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Pep Guardiola & co. at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.

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