Ask The Opposition w/ Simon Phillips – Manchester City vs Chelsea (Premier League)

This clash against Chelsea marks the end of a huge week for Manchester City in the title race. In a week that saw us overcome the shock at Newcastle with wins against Arsenal and Everton as well as retaining top spot, albeit for a short while, the Champions end the week with a huge clash against Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea. It’s a fixture that will be far from straight-forward with City on the receiving end of a defeat the last time these two sides met in December at Stamford Bridge. A win for the blues today would send them back to the top of the Premier League on goal difference following Liverpool’s comfortable win.

Ahead of this one, I took time out to speak to Simon Phillips of ‘Chelsea Echo’ to get his thoughts on this one:

Thanks for joining us Simon. Chelsea are a way off the summit of the Premier League but are firmly locked into a battle for fourth with Arsenal and United – how would you assess the 18/19 Premier League campaign so far? 
We’re on course for 4th place and some silverware, which was the clubs target at the start of the year. Maurizio Sarri is having some issues with players understanding how he wants them to play – but overall I am content with how its going so far.

Chelsea’s Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge in London on February 2, 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)

Some are suggesting Chelsea boss Mauricio Sarri hasn’t got the full backing of his players, nor can he motivate them following an indifferent 2019 so far. How confident are you that the 18/19 campaign has simply been one of transition?
He has the backing of the majority of the players, the rest is just typical media noise. Some of the players here have been used to playing defensive and containing systems and some are also struggling to have the ability to adapt. But Sarri believes in his own abilities to train players, so I’m very confident this will turn out positively.

Chelsea midfielder Jorginho had been a huge target for City last summer, but what have you made of the Italian’s start to life in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge?
He’s a class player. He’s coming off negatively by some fans, which is entirely wrong. He’s actually having a much better season than some suggest, and the statistics back that up. He’s struggled mainly due to other players not understanding the system, not being in the right positions, not releasing the ball quick enough etc. There’s a reason that Pep Guardiola wanted him, put it that way.

Chelsea’s Italian midfielder Jorginho celebrates after scoring his penalty in the shoot-out during the English League Cup semi-final second-leg football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on January 24, 2019. – Chelsea won the tie 4-2 on penalties after the teams drew 2-2 on aggregate after the two leg semi-final. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

The last time these two sides faced off, Chelsea took all three points at the Bridge in a 2-0 win. Are you expecting a similar pattern of play this time round, and maybe even the same result?
Chelsea will set up the same and aim for the same result, but this is football, its so unpredictable and a lot will depend on who turns up on the day. It will be a difficult match for both sides and both will be confident of getting a result.

Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz (L) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in London on December 8, 2018. (Photo by Ian KINGTON / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

This is the first of two meetings in February alone, with the League Cup Final looming. Mauricio Sarri will surely be in different need of silverware to make up for a below par League season. Which of the two is the more important clash between these two teams?
A Chelsea loss here wouldn’t be the end of the world, but obviously with motivation being questioned and momentum important, both are must wins for us. But if you tell me I can only win one of the two, then of course I’m saying the Cup, as like you mention, silverware is so important to Sarri to get on the grid with.

What have you made of Manchester City so far this season and who are you backing in the title race, which at the moment, appears to be between three sides? Chelsea team prediction and score prediction?
I said Man City to win the league start of the season, I’m sticking with that. Guardiola is a great coach and I think they have too much quality not to win it. 

Chelsea prediction – Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic, Hazard, Pedro, Higuain.
Score – 1-1

You can follow our guest here: @SiPhillipsSport

You can follow us here for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra

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