17:30 KO (BST); Saturday 30th September; Stamford Bridge (London, England) BT Sport
With Antonio Conte winning both fixtures against Pep Guardiola’s City side last season, the Italian manager has already proven that he can outperform his managerial rival in the tactics department. With Chelsea sitting in third position in the early table rankings, they have a target above them to aim for and after the flowing start by City to this season, a win for Chelsea will send a huge message to their rivals heading into an extended fixture break.
Having scored more goals than a toddler can count already this season, City have been brushing most of their opponents aside in an impressive show of strength so far this season. Despite scoring 16 goals from their three Premiership games this month, the fact they’ve only conceded two goals from their opening six games seems even more impressive considering their troubles at this stage last year. While there’s an argument that City have not yet played any testing games against teams of note, they can only beat the teams they’re scheduled to face and they’ve been beating these teams with zeal.
Last Time Out
Atlético Madrid 1 – 2 CHELSEA (Champions League)
The Blues came from a goal behind to send Atlético tumbling to defeat in the first Champions League game to be played at the Wanda Metropolitano. With Diego Costa watching on from the stands, Álvaro Morata was another striker returning to a familiar city after spending the majority of his career in the white half of the capital.
The Spaniard may have been greeted with several choruses of booing by the home fans, however, he had the final laugh as his technique and movement saw him rewarded with an equalising goal in the second half, his first ever strike against Atlético. The best player on the pitch was another Chelsea player, and a player who linked up beautifully with Morata for the 82 minutes they both lasted on the pitch. In only his second start of the season following a long injury lay-off, Eden Hazard was near his mercurial best and was instrumental in the Blues being victorious.
Shakhtar Donetsk 0 – 2 MANCHESTER CITY (Champions League)
City were given a thorough examination in Ukraine as their hosts put up more of a fight than many expected the Citizens to face. In a lively and entertaining encounter, City were forced to stand strong and they did so admirably, dispelling fears that they’re a side who are still weak at the back of the pitch. With Fernandinho shielding the back-four excellently and John Stones looking much, much more comfortable now than during his first season at the club, City were a team built on solid foundations and had the reliable hands of Ederson in goal as a last line of defence.
At the other end of the pitch, it was the combination of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva which engineered City’s best opportunities. With Sergio Agüero missing a penalty and unable to beat keeper Andriy Pyatov from open play, it was the midfielders who came to rescue his blushes and continue to prove that there’s plenty of goals in all areas of this squad.
Danny Drinkwater (calf) is still not available to play following his transfer at the end of August while David Luiz misses the game through suspension after his red card against the Gunners. This will provide Antonio Conte with plenty of options and could see the return of Willian, although many of the positions could depend on how well recovered the players are from the midweek exertions.
Manchester City Lineup
The big news in the build-up to this fixture saw Sergio Agüero’s driver skidding through Amsterdam at the expense of the Argentinian’s ribs. Captain Vincent Kompany (calf) and new signing Benjamin Mendy (knee) are also missing in defence for the Citizens who could be pushed into a 4-1-4-1 formation due to Agüero’s absence.
Key Battle: Midfield vs Midfield
The central midfield area will be a huge battle for control in this match with the likely pairings of N’Golo Kanté and Tiemoué Bakayoko facing David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne locked in a battle for supremacy. This will see the Manchester City midfielders pushing forward more as attacking players due to the support of Fernandinho behind them, while the Chelsea midfielders are built more to destroy rather than create although Bakayoko is more than capable of carrying the ball forwards himself.
Conte may also choose to adopt a five-man midfield to help stifle the City players without losing any creativity and also to provide additional width to reduce the effectiveness of City’s wingers. While Chelsea will have the edge physically, City are more likely to prove more of a finesse in the central areas of the field which will lead to a very intriguing contest that hopefully doesn’t see each side cancel out the other to leave a dull spectacle.
After a historic result in Madrid on Wednesday evening, Chelsea will find themselves with a huge confidence boost heading into this weekend’s fixture. The scale and nature of the win was a huge scalp for the London side who were the first away team to score at Atlético’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium and also the first team to inflict defeat on the Spaniards in 12 home Champions League matches.
But with the high that must surely have surged through the away dressing room late on Wednesday, there’s also the possibility that over-confidence could cloud their thoughts. Chelsea looked less energetic than their rivals Arsenal last weekend, something that may have been due to the underdog tag the Gunners were feeling around their necks. With pride comes a great fall and Conte will be reminding his squad this week that at only six games into the Premiership campaign, they’ve won nothing of note yet and will need to fight for any points this weekend.
There was a double serving of bad news for City this week with two long-term injuries being announced by the club. Benjamin Mendy will miss around seven months because of the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee rupturing during last weekend’s game against Crystal Palace. This means the left-back won’t be available until the last few games of the season which is a huge blow for him and for City.
In other news, Sergio Agüero has suffered broken ribs in a car accident late on Thursday evening. After making his way back from a concert in Amsterdam, his driver lost control of the vehicle on a wet road and collided with a post at speed. While no blame has been attached to the driver, it will surely keep the Argentine striker sidelined for at least a few weeks to leave Gabriel Jesus as the clubs only out-and-out strike option. With the week starting on good news with regards to Ilkay Gündogan’s encouraging progress in his return from a year-long injury, Guardiola will be thankful that he has deep resources in his squad to call upon.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 – 1 Manchester City
While Chelsea’s draw at home to Arsenal last weekend proved that they’re far from the finished article, the Blues have already beaten both Tottenham and Atlético away from home to show they’re set up to get results against Europe’s finest. City meanwhile have yet to be fully tested, the Liverpool fixture being the only potential big clash, however, the Reds beat themselves in that particular game. City’s biggest problem last year was in this type of big game and this box office clash will be a huge barometer of where each team is currently at, personally I think Chelsea have just enough to clinch it, especially with Agüero out of the equation.
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