Welcome to Monday Night Football! It’s the biggest game in this round of Premier League action. It sees Jose Mourinho bring his Chelsea with the tightest defence (20 goals) to the home ground of the Free-scoring (68 league goals) League Leaders, Manchester City.
The Citizens have been scintillating at the Etihad; they are yet to drop points at home and have outscored their unfortunate visitors by 42-8 goal margin. They have scored more goals at home than the home and away haul of every team bar Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Their 5-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur was the 14th time the Citizens have put their opponents to the sword by scoring 4 or more goals. In games between the top seven top sides in the League, The Sky Blues have taken 18 points out of a possible 21(the sole defeat at Chelsea).
For Jose Mourinho side; they went undefeated in January (conceding just a goal), have conceded the least number of goals (20) with 9 clean sheets. In their last eight league games, only Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Manchester United found the back of Petr Cech’s net. The Pensioners have taken 12 points from a possible 21 in games against the current top seven sides;3 wins against Manchester City, Liverpool and recently against the Red Devils, draws away to Tottenham, Arsenal and United with the sole defeat at Everton. The Blues are currently undefeated in their last eight games.
The game at Stamford Bridge earlier this season ended in favor of the Blues from London no thanks to a howler from Joe Hart which allowed Fernando Torres steal a late winner.
Second half goals from Yaya Toure and a customary one from now Juventus Striker, Carlos Tevez helped Man City to a 2-0 win over Chelsea in the corresponding fixture last season.
For the record, Chelsea has not won at Etihad since 2008(2-1) and the 2-1 win on October 27, 2013 was the Blues first over City since 2011.
v Manchester City:1st(53points)17-2-4(W-D-L)
v Chelsea 3rd (50points) 15-5-3 (W-D-L)
v Manchester City: WWWWWW
v Chelsea: WWWWWD
TOP SCORERS (LEAGUE)
v Man City: Sergio Aguero (15)
v Chelsea: Eden Hazard (9)
v Sergio Aguero picked up a hamstring injury in the 5-1 win at White Hart Lane and would be out for up to a month. He’ll no doubt be a loss as he has the ability to play on the defender, drop into the “hole” and pick out spaces in the tightest of areas and let’s not forget, he’s been prolific (15 league goals).His loss should however be compensated as the likes of Yaya Toure (12), Negredo (12), Dzeko (7) should shoulder the goal-scoring responsibilities.
v Others to miss this big game are Samir Nasri(Knee,21 Feb),Javi Garcia(Muscle, Feb 8) and James Milner(groin) who is doubtful
v There is no one suspended
v Torres would sit out of this game as he recovers from a knee injury which was picked up in the 3-1 win over United. For a striker with 4 league goals in six months of action, his absence should not be felt. Van Ginkel is a long term absentee; he’s been out with a knee injury with full recovery set for April.
v New signing Salah has trained with his teammates but this game might soon for the Egyptian who is short of match fitness. The Special One hinted that he might not play a full part in a Press Conference on Friday.
v There are no suspended players
MANAGERS AND THEIR TACTICS
MANUEL PELLEGRINI (MANCHESTER CITY)
The Chilean is a disciple of expansive, attacking and direct football. His footballing philosophies have no doubt been evident in his City team as they’ve scored 68 goals in the League (35 away from breaking the record of 103 set by Chelsea in the 2009/10 season) and 111 in all competitions. He’s favored attacking regardless of the opposition and ground. The only time he went cautious was against Chelsea earlier in the season when he dropped Negredo and played Toure as an attacking midfielder which didn’t pay off.
He’s used the 4-4-2 formation in his spell at the Eastland to full effect with Navas providing the width and Silva the orchestrator of the team band. The 4-4-2 changes to 4-2-3-1 off the ball with Kun dropping into the ‘hole’ to wreak havoc with his mazy runs and interchange of play.
With Aguero set to miss tomorrow’s game, expect him to go with a 4-4-2 formation with Bosnian forward, Dzeko and Negredo up front.
JOSE MOURINHO (CHELSEA)
What more can I say about the Special, Only, Happy and recently Sad One? He’s an astute tactician and a brilliant reader of the game
He’s used the 4-2-3-1 in his second spell at the Bridge though in games against Norwich, Cardiff and Southampton, he switched to the 3-3-2-2 and 4-4-2 respectively.
His tactics in the big games have been win the home games and not lose the away; Against United at Old Trafford, He started the game with no recognized Forward, against Arsenal a defensive 4-3-3 formation and circumstances (Torres red card) forced him to defend against Spurs. It remains to be seen whether he goes with a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 in tomorrow’s game. It’s because of Him most Chelsea fans feel they’ll get something out of the game.
It would also be interesting to see what approach he adopts against the menacing Citizens. He complained about West Ham’s “19th Century Football Style” in the stalemate at the Bridge so going similar against City would look hypocritical. Knowing Jose, he won’t budge and probably already has an answer for the Press if he adopts a “17th Century Style” tomorrow. Whatever approach he adopts, it’s going to be stern test of his team’s strength and title credentials.
POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN
MANCHESTER CITY 4-4-2
v GOALKEEPER: JOE HART
v DEFENDERS: PABLO ZABALETA, VINCENT KOMPANY, MARTIN DEMICHELIS AND GAEL CLICHY
v MIDFIELDERS: JESUS NAVAS,FERNANDINHO,YAYA TOURE AND DAVID SILVA
v FORWARDS: EDIN DZEKO AND ALVARO NEGREDO
v GOALKEEPER:PETR CECH
v DEFENDERS:BRANISLAV IVANOVIC, GARY CAHILL, JOHN TERRY AND CESAR AZPILICUETA
v MIDFIELDERS: RAMIRES, NEMANJA MATIC AND JOHN OBI MIKEL
v FORWARDS :WILLIAN,ETO’O AND EDEN HAZARD
WHAT MANCHESTER CITY MUST DO
v THE BIG BOYS MUST SHOW UP: At Stamford Bridge, the likes of Yaya Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri and of course Hart all went missing with Aguero the only one who emerged out of the game with any real credit. This time around, in front of their fans, the big guys must rise up to the occasion. They can’t afford to repeat the lacklustre performances they showed against Crystal Palace and Watford. The Chelsea guys would most likely rise to the occasion, it’s now up to the boys from Manchester to do the same.
v PLAY TO THE STRENGTH OF DZEKO AND NEGREDO: There won’t be Aguero who can drop back and play between the lines and neither Dzeko nor Negredo can particularly do that .They are not also the fastest forwards and would not test the Chelsea defence that is not known for pace, except someone plays closer to them. I expect Silva to take up that role as he’s got an owl eye that can spot a space even in the dark. Playing closer to the City Strikers means Terry and Co would have to drop back thanks to their lack of pace. Failure to do that and the Chelsea defence would have to push up to try playing them offside.
v STAY PATIENT: Unlike previous games where they blitzed past opponents, they’ll probably find it hard to get the goals rolling in the early moments. It’s up to them to stay patient and not play into the counter-attacking threat of Mourinho’s Chelsea.
v TRY NOT TO CONCEDE FIRST: Chelsea would most probably come with their version of 19th century football except Mourinho goes otherwise. He would set up a counter attacking team so it would be important the Citizens don’t concede first as the Blues could park-the-bus. Conceding first means they’ll have to push up which could play into the hands of a counter-attacking Chelsea side. Also, City is a side that has the likes of Zabaleta and Clichy/Kolarov pushing up to provide width.Whlie it’s expected that they have a go at Chelsea, they have to be aware of pushing too high as they could be caught out on the break by the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Willian.
v ONE GOAL WON’T WIN IT: If City were to score first, that won’t be a guarantee of victory as Chelsea this season have recovered 14 points from losing position(The Best in the Premier League).Mourinho’s teams are not known for going down without a fight.
v PLEASE NO BACK PASS: If a City defender is in an awkward position, it would be best if he clears into touch rather than attempt an unfortunate back pass to Hart. Experience they say is the best teacher. Also for no reason should Joe Hart waste time on his kicks as a certain Samuel Eto’o could be lurking around.
WHAT CHELSEA MUST DO
v EXPLOIT THE FRAILTIES IN MAN CITY DEFENCE: City no doubt possesses a fearsome attacking threat. However, they look susceptible at the back. Demichelis has lost pace and would lose a 20 meter race against Mikel not to talk of Hazard. Chelsea has the talent to expose the deficiencies. The thought of Hazard, Willian and Oscar running at the Argentine would set the hearts of the Citizen faithful racing.
v UTILIZE YOUR OPPORTUNITIES: Chelsea had 39 shots (including blocked) against West Ham with none finding the back of the net. Such form of kind gesture won’t be reciprocated by Man City. They’ll get their chance s in bits and they have to convert the ones that come their way. Against United, three shots resulted in three goals. Such ruthlessness in front of goal is necessary to mitigate the onslaught from the City Army.
v EXPLOIT THE FLANKS: The City full-backs are renowned for pushing forward to join the attack and create width. Against the Blues of London, they’ll most likely do the same. It’s now for the Chelsea attack to exploit the gaps left behind and stretch the defence. Bayern did it and there’s no reason why Chelsea can’t do same.
v STAY TIGHT AND COMPACT
Mourinho would ring this into their ears “stay tight and compact and limit the spaces, try not conceding first”. Getting into the tunnel at the break goalless or a goal up would most likely create a nervous atmosphere at Etihad and could have impact on the players’ performance. It is vital Chelsea don’t concede first. They will have to play as a unit and whoever gets to play on the left side of the attacking-midfield (most likely Hazard) would have to fall back to neutralize the attacking threat of Navas and Zabaleta down the right.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GAME
v A win for the Sky Blues would send them to the top of the log if Arsenal as expected sees off an improving Crystal Palace on Sunday.
v A loss or draw depending on the Arsenal game would leave them either first or second.
v For Chelsea, the draw against the Hammers at the Bridge has made this game more significant to their title challenge.
v A win for the Blues would send them second if Arsenal slips up at home to Crystal Palace
v A draw would leave them 3 points behind the Citizens and 5 points behind the Gunners (should they prevail). A loss could be calamitous as it would leave Mou’s team 6points behind the Blue of Manchester and 5 points behind London rivals, Arsenal (should they win).
v A win for Arsenal would send them back to the top and they could remain there if the game at Etihad ends in a draw
v Should Liverpool win at struggling West Brom, the Anfield side would close the gap on Chelsea to a single point.
v Man City is yet to lose any league game played on Monday. However, the last time they lost on Monday, it was against Chelsea in 2007.
v Chelsea has kept 3 clean sheets in a row away from home in the Premier League.
v Chelsea have lost their last 4 Premier League visits to the Etihad but no team has won more games away at Man City(10)
v Alvaro Negredo has scored 16 goals in his last 13 competitive appearance for the Citizens at the Etihad
v Man City has scored at least 2 goals in 11 of their 12 home matches in the Premier League
v The Blues have won 11 of the 13 league games in which they have opened the scoring.
v Since the International break in November, the Blues have won 29 points from a possible 36. Only City has had more over that period with 34.
v Chelsea has scored at least 2 goals in 5 of their 6 away matches in the Premier League.
v Man City has scored at least a goal in their last 61 home Premier League matches, stretching over 3 years. Birmingham was the last side to come away with a clean slate. That was in November, 2010
MANCHESTER CITY 2 V CHELSEA 1
v Do you agree with the prediction?
v Who would most likely start?