Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Stamford Bridge/April 5, 2017
After what was a freak result on Saturday afternoon, this match has now taken on extra significance. As a matter of fact, it’s now the most important game in the race for the title. The odds are still all in our favour of course but nonetheless a lot will be riding on the outcome of this massive clash at Stamford Bridge. With Spurs having a pretty easy ride at Turf Moor this past Saturday, the gap between first and second now stands at seven. Anything other than a win against City coupled with a Spurs win at Swansea will see the gap cut down even more. Any chance that City might have of making a late run for the title blew up in smokes at the Emirates on Sunday after managing just a draw. Even if they are to come away with anything from this game (God forbid!) they would probably be helping Spurs rather than their own self. A seven point gap at this stage of the season still represents a very healthy advantage and I’m sure Antonio Conte would be drumming it into the lads not to let the slip on Saturday get to them as we still have the situation very much in hand. It was a case of chances not taken on Saturday as we created loads of them. With a little bit of luck and Wayne Hennessy in a less inspired form we certainly would have gotten more than the one goal. On Wednesday though we’ve got to make every chance count because profligacy in front of goal is a luxury we cannot afford, not just for this match but for the remainder of this season. Pep Guardiola seems to have finally found a team he trusts after changing his team and formation like one changes clothes earlier in the season, albeit he did play Jesus Navas as a right back at the Emirates perhaps to nullify the threat of Alexis Sanchez and since that worked on the Chilean he might be tempted to try the same trick again with Hazard on Wednesday. I’m not counting on it though because Pep would know Eden Hazard poses twice as much danger compared to Sanchez when faced with an out-of- position Jesus Navas. The Citizens left Stamford Bridge last time out comfortable 3-0 winners last April but Pep would be under no illusion that the Chelsea team they face on Wednesday is a completely different animal to the misfiring team of last season.
No one would have thought Victor Moses would become a very important member of the Chelsea first team after spending the last three seasons away from Stamford Bridge on loan. As much as I wouldn’t want to put the loss on Saturday solely down to his inavailability, it was certainly part of the reason we lost because I felt we had a problem on that wing due to the way Pedro started the game. I really wish he’s fit to start on Wednesday but if that isn’t the case I’m sure Conte would be better prepared for that possibility than he was on Saturday. Fabregas was deployed in a more advanced role from the start on Saturday to form part of the front three (and if there was a positive I took from the loss, it was the interplay between him and Hazard. It was a joy to watch while it lasted) but if he’s to start this game it should be from his ‘natural’ position beside Kante in central midfield with either Willian or Pedro completing the attacking trident. This way I think Fabregas would be key, just as he was in December, for us to take advantage of the weakness in City’s defense on the counter.
Injuries: Victor Moses (Calf)-Slight Doubt
Last 5 matches: LWWWW
At the Emirates on Sunday Pep Guardiola lined his team up in a 4-3-3 formation with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane on either side of Aguero in attack. He left Yaya Toure on the bench choosing instead to pair David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in midfield with Fernadinho shielding the defense. Pep opted to play Navas at right back even though Pablo Zabaleta was fit and on the bench. At the Etihad in December, Guardiola set his team up to mirror Antonio Conte’s 3-4- 3 system playing Aleksandr Kolarov as a centre back and that didn’t work out so well for him in the end but I suspect we might see his team resemble what he doled out on Sunday at the Emirates. Fit again Vincent Kompany is finding game time hard to come by because Guardiola said he doesn’t trust him to last a game without another injury episode so he would most likely go with his tried and trusted pair, John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi.
Injuries: Gabriel Jesus (Foot) - Out; Ilkay Gundogan (Knee) - Out Bacary Sagna (Abductor Muscle) -Out
Last 5 Matches: DWWDW
3 Matchups to Watch
- Costa vs. Otamendi: Diego Costa had a pretty subdued performance by his lofty standard and he would be looking to make amends for that with an improved performance on Wednesday. Depending on the shape of Pep Guardiola’s team, Costa is likely to square up against Otamendi and I bet he would cherish the possibility having brushed aside the Argentine before slotting past Bravo for a goal back in December.
- Luiz vs. Aguero: This is sure to be a fascinating duel knowing what happened between the pair at the Etihad. Aguero is as tough as they come for any striker but his red card at the Etihad for that horror tackle might still be playing on his mind. If Luiz needed a reminder how tough a customer Aguero is he just has to remember the pain in his right knee. I personally cannot wait to see how this duel pans out.
- Kante vs. Silva: Pep Guardiola likes to set his team up to dominate in the midfield area and Silva is the glue that holds the midfield and attack together. Kante would have to give his utmost best to stop the Spanish maestro. If we can limit the impact of the little Spaniard then we have taken the first step to neutralizing the threat of City’s intimidating forwards.
Given the shy performance of Man City at the Emirates on Sunday, I think it’s safe to say that Guardiola has already conceded defeat in the race for the title. Knowing that they could cut the gap to nine coming into that match they didn’t show the desire needed to win the game on Sunday against what was a below par Arsenal team. That’s not to say they are just going to roll over on Wednesday but I still expect us to advantage City’s weak back five and come away with the threepoints. Another three points on the road to the title then, and remember to Keep The Blue Flag Flying High!