Pep Guardiola’s team have certainly looked impressive in victories against Arsenal and Burnley. This time, though, they’ll have to travel to one of London’s biggest stadiums and beat one of this season’s best sides to keep the good run going.
Here’s our predicted City team for the game…
Pep Guardiola will be without star striker Sergio Agüero for the next few weeks after he sustained a nasty injury while winning a penalty kick against Burnley. Meanwhile, Eric García is still recovering from his clash with Ederson at the end of the victory over Arsenal. John Stones is the only outfield senior Manchester City player not to get any minutes over the last two games, with his fitness for this match in some doubt.
Ederson has been faultless since the restart, although it’s easy to be faultless when your defence haven’t conceded a single shot on target. He’ll be sure of a start again on Thursday night as he looks to make it three clean sheets in a row.
I expect the backline to look a lot more like the one that beat Arsenal than the one that beat Burnley. Kyle Walker will likely come back in for Joao Cancelo, who unfortunately did nothing to help himself against Sean Dyche’s side. On the opposite flank, Benjamin Mendy has been in great form for a very long time now and will be looking to keep that up against some tricky Chelsea forwards.
Aymeric Laporte is absolutely essential here, as Chelsea will almost certainly start at least one of Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham – we need Laporte’s presence to keep the target man under control. I also think Fernandinho will stay on as his defensive partner to add his usual calming presence to the defence, something the full-backs can’t always offer because of their attacking duties.
I don’t know exactly what to expect in midfield, so I’ll start with Kevin de Bruyne. I’ll be amazed if the brilliant Belgian doesn’t start against Lampard’s side, seeing as he’s probably the most reliable big-game performer in the Premier League right now. Time is running out for Kevin to match that Henry assist record, but either way I’d still say he’s been the best player in the division this campaign.
Although Rodri would make perfect sense, I have a feeling it’ll be Ilkay Gundogan in the deep role. The German played there against Arsenal and was rested against the Clarets, so I can certainly picture him getting another big-match start here. Let’s not forget that two of his best ever games for us came in the 1-0 and 6-0 wins over Chelsea.
I’m not sure who will be the final midfielder. David Silva surely won’t start three games in eight days, so it’s Bernardo Silva I’m backing to play here. I’ve long been a believer that Bernardo’s best position is in midfield and I hope he gets more chances to prove it. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Phil Foden rewarded for his electric Burnley performance with another start here, although if not, he’s certain to play against Newcastle on Sunday.
The front three is actually a fairly straightforward one to predict due to Agüero’s injury. While we’ve proven that we’re not opposed to giving Leroy Sané minutes, I can’t see our forward line being anything other than Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus. Mahrez already has two goals and Sterling one since the restart, so this is surely our best available attack. Unless, that is, Guardiola goes ‘Full Pep‘ on us and starts a false nine – which, to be honest, rarely works.
The bench, as is customary for the rest of the season, will include nine players. As our senior squad is only twenty-three players (and two are backup goalkeepers and another two or three are injured), this makes it fairly easy to guess. Claudio Bravo should join Nicolas Otamendi, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, David Silva, Leroy Sané, Phil Foden, Rodri and John Stones on the bench – but with Pep’s City, you can almost always expect a surprise or six.
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