The Blues are back within reach of the top spot with this seasons title race showing no signs of slowing down following City’s 0-2 victory at Goodison Park on Wednesday night. With Liverpool overcoming the pressure of falling from the summit, can City overcome an erratic Chelsea?
Having dispatched Arsenal with ease and battled hard to overcome Everton, should Manchester City prevail on Sunday afternoon, I think the blip against Newcastle United will be forgotten quickly.
Last time out, City succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge, their first defeat of the season and the defeat that saw Liverpool leapfrog into first. On a day where Pep Guardiola described City’s first half performance as “exceptional”, City didn’t have an answer to N’Golo Kante’s superb strike and David Luiz’s header.
Since then, Chelsea have encountered a rough patch of their own in January, with back-to-back defeats in the Premier League to Arsenal and Bournemouth, the latter being the more embarrassing of the two who put four past Chelsea on the South Coast.
Normal service resumed with a 5-0 hammering of bottom of the table Huddersfield Town – new man Gonzalo Higuain getting off the mark in West London with a brace.
So despite the turn around on the pitch Maurizio Sarri has come under fire this week for his style of play not compromising in the Premier League when the going is tough, sound familiar?
Guardiola has always been an admirer of the Italian saying in August last year; “First of all I’m happy that a manager of that level is in the Premier League. I’m going to learn a lot to see him every weekend,” – as well as defending him during his pre-match press conference; “I see Chelsea and I can understand what they want to do. And after I see them, they do it. Maybe for other people they don’t know exactly what they want to do. But they do it”
Looking at the team news, the usual suspects are absent for City with Vincent Kompany still nursing the muscle injury picked up in the victory over Liverpool at the start of the year and Benjamin Mendy has reportedly been in Barcelona for surgery on his meniscus; the piece of cartilage that provides a cushion between your thigh bone and shinbone.
Chelsea meanwhile have few injuries to be concerned about for Sunday’s meeting. Antonio Rudiger was left out against Huddersfield but could be set for a return, whilst on the match fitness front “We had only some little problems, with Hudson-Odoi, – He had fever, but only for one day. Yesterday we had a little problem with [Gary] Cahill, with his back.”
I imagine Pep Guardiola will opt for a line-up similar to what we we saw against Everton midweek; a 4-3-3 with Danilo replacing Laporte at left-back and the Frenchman occupying Nicolas Otamendi’s spot.
As for the midfield I imagine Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne will occupy the more attacking of the three midfield roles, with Raheem Sterling taking Bernardo’s place in the front three.
A win on Sunday would, in my opinion, really send out a statement that this is still very much City’s title to loose. Chelsea will definitely fancy their own chances and despite being 12 points off the pace, a win for them could see them enter the fray as an outside chance for the title given the unpredictability of those above them.
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