Premier League 17/18 Week 29: Manchester City vs Chelsea- Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Champions present face champions-elect as Conte takes his team to Manchester for a second successive Sunday
16:00 GMT, Sunday 4th March, Etihad Stadium (Manchester, England) Sky Sports
With a chance to put themselves 18-points clear at the top of the league, at least temporarily, Pep Guardiola’s City can move a step closer to securing this season’s title. While they may now have succumbed to defeat in the Premier League to lose the chance of being crowned champions without losing a game, their home record still boasts an unconquered status.
If Chelsea are to find a way of moving back into a top-four position, they will need to find a way of breaking this run. Yesterday’s results mean that the Blues go into this match trailing 4th-placed Tottenham by 5 points and with an inferior goal difference too. To make matters worse for Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s side have only won 2 of their previous 7 league matches, losing 3 of their last 4. A win at the Etihad, however, would send a significant statement of intent from Conte’s side who will need to be at the top of their game in the coming weeks in both the Premier and Champions Leagues.
Last Time Out
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City (Premier League)
City oozed class as they dispatched the Gunners by a 3-0 scoreline for the second time in 5 days. Not only did the Citizens exert a dominance on the tempo of the game, their finishing too was ruthless as their first-half display left the Gunners reeling at half-time. Three goals in an 18-minute spell took the sting out of Arsenal’s early determination and paved the way for City to climb 16 points atop the Premier League table.
Among the standout performances, Leroy Sané was in scintillating form and was at the heart of several moves in which City were near unstoppable. David Silva was again instrumental in much of City’s play while Sergio Agüero led the line with aplomb despite not claiming his 200th goal for the club. With Arsenal missing a penalty early in the second half, City held on in a relatively comfortable end to the game to put themselves 30 points ahead of the Gunners.
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea (Premier League)
Chelsea swapped a lead for a defeat for the first time this season with a display lacking bite and finesse. They started the game with plenty of intent as Álvaro Morata crashed a 4th-minute shot against the woodwork while the Blues pinned United back for much of the first half. Willian eventually found a way through the Reds resistance with a rasping shot that beat David de Gea at his near post around the half-hour mark.
It was United who became more dominant after the goal, culminating in a goal to take the teams into the break on level terms. Again Chelsea began the second half with good intentions, however, this too faded as the match wore on and United took the lead after several warnings. With the Blues looking uninspired in midfield, Cesc Fàbregas was belatedly brought into the game for the closing stages. Despite a Morata strike which was disallowed for offside, Chelsea could not provide a significant threat or momentum and they slipped out of the game with a loss.
Manchester City Lineup
Fabian Delph (suspended) Ben Mendy (knee) and Fernandinho (hamstring) are all missing once again but will be joined by Kyle Walker who hobbled out of the Emirates with 20-minutes still to play last Thursday. Raheem Sterling is expected to recover from the small muscular injury which prevented him playing that match. With City looking comfortable in the Champions League ahead of their 2nd leg tie on Wednesday, Guardiola should opt for his strongest side, although central defence could see changes to bring freshness to the side.
Ethan Ampadu (knock) will join David Luiz (knock) and Tiemoué Bakayoko (suspended) out of action on Sunday but Ross Barkley has recovered from his hamstring injury now, although is unlikely to be called into the starting eleven. Instead, Conte is likely to stick with the same team who began against Manchester United last week.
Key Battle: Leroy Sané (Manchester City) vs Victor Moses (Chelsea)
The reverse fixture saw Guardiola outsmart Conte down the flanks, primarily using his wingers to supply the width as his wing-backs cut inside to central midfield. With both Walker and Fabian Delph set to miss out this weekend, more importance will be placed on the wingers to beat their men in the wide areas. Sané has been in scintillating form recently and appears to be back to the peak of his powers. A goal and an assist on Thursday capped another fine display, however, he will need to recover quickly to supply more of the same.
Facing him will be a player who many Chelsea fans believe to be their team’s weakest link this season. Moses lacked the defensive nous to deal effectively with Manchester United’s attacks last Sunday and will need an improved performance this weekend if selected to start. While he offers a real threat supporting the Blues attack, a failure to defend against City could see his position exploited and he needs to prove the doubters wrong if Chelsea are to surprise the League leaders.
Possessing more energy
Guardiola’s possession-based game has had many benefits for City already this season, however, another advantage could prove useful for the Citizens on Sunday. With only 72 hours having passed since they left the pitch in North London, Chelsea should find themselves with a distinct edge over their opponents in terms of freshness.
City’s win over Arsenal on Thursday was helped by their early exertions which put the game beyond the Gunners by half-time. Controlling the tempo of the match throughout the second half, City made the ball do the work, rather than their players. With the ball at their feet, they did not have to work as hard chasing and pressing which serves to conserve energy.
If City are able to maintain possession and again control the speed that this fixture is played at, they could negate the fact that Chelsea can profit in the latter stages of Sunday’s meeting.
From out of the shadows
Manchester City may find themselves as clear favourites to win this game but Chelsea have shown enough this season to be able to pose a major threat to Guardiola’s side. The Blues recent match against Barcelona also saw them go into a match with little expectations given, however, they were ultimately unlucky to finish the match without a win.
Big games have often inspired big performances from Chelsea and this weekend could prove similar. With both Conte and Chelsea in dire need of a morale and profile-boosting victory, a win over the runaway league leaders may not be as far away as many realise and would provide the much-needed elements for both club and manager alike.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea
The reverse fixture proved to be a strategic battle rather than anything profoundly physical or dependent on moments of great skill. The winner of this match is most likely to be the team who can execute their own gameplan with most clarity and City’s possession-hogging style makes them favourites to achieve this.