EPL : CHELSEA vs MANCHESTER CITY
Chelsea’s season may be long in ruins as it never kicked off, but this does not make for a dead rubber. City is battling to cement a top 4 finish over a chasing pack that seems to be getting closer and closer to them. Occupying the very last Champions League spot at 4th, City will go all out to continue their dominance of Chelsea over the last few years just to establish a breathing space.
The last tie, in the FA Cup, resulted in a 5-1 drubbing of City in February, however, this was only the 3rd win for Chelsea since the turn of 2012 in a period where they lost 8 of the 14 fixtures played by the sides, including a 3-0 beating at the Etihad early in the season.
Besides, Chelsea cannot read too much into that victory as Manuel Pellegrini fielded a youthful and inexperienced side in protest of the Football Association’s decision not to postpone the fixture as City had a crucial Champions League tie in a few days that followed.
Talk of Champions League, City has made great strides from that time to reach the semi-finals for the very first time after Wednesday’s victory over PSG, and it is such carefully crafted wins that Pellegrini will seek to imitate on Saturday. In fact, City’s only loss over their last 6 encounters was in the derby against United.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s recovery under Guus Hiddink had been decent, until it took a knock at home against PSG in the 2-1 loss that was followed by further losses to Everton and Swansea.
Chelsea will miss the services of veteran centre back and captain, John Terry (Achilles), as well as fellow centre back Kurt Zouma (knee), striker Loic Remy (groin) and playmaker Eden Hazard (hip). Nemanja Matic and Gary Cahill will face late fitness tests.
City, although witnessed a much improved defensive display against PSG on Tuesday, will still miss influential captain Vincent Kompany (calf), winger Raheem Sterling (calf) and David Silva(heel).
Both teams prefer to use the modern formation of 4-2-3-1.
Depending on which Chelsea shows up for this tie, the old Chelsea that won the league or the lacklustre one whose struggles are well documented, It is a matter of the seniors like Oscar, Willian and Costa standing up and taking responsibility on the big stage.
Aguero is the spearhead of City’s attack and should be able to continue his prolific goal scoring form. De Bruyne has been a revelation not only since his return, but since his signing from Wolfsburg and he should impact on this game too as he often does in big games.
Probable line ups
Chelsea : Courteous; Rahman, Ivanovic, Cahill/ Miazga, Azapulcueta; Mikel, Fabregas, Oscar, Pedro, Willian; Costa
City : Hart; Clichy/Kolarov, Mangala, Otamendi, Sagna/ Zabaletta; Fernandino, Toure, Debruyne, Nasri ,Navas; Aguerro
Depending on which Chelsea will show up, this makes for an interesting encounter. However, City’s depth in squad should translate into superiority on the pitch. City have all to play for, while Chelsea’s season is literally over and have only pride, if anything at all to salvage. I would expect them to win by a close margin like 1-2.