Many will say there is really nothing to win and nothing to lose. What has to be won has been won and what is lost is really lost. The defending EPL champions, Chelsea, have been dethroned and the title will be won by Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
What does this mean to Antonio Conte, who said in an interview on Friday that the Chelsea board failed to match his ambitions. “When money and a good manager meet – you have a situation like Guardiola has at City.”
But today is another 90 minutes to prove that there is still some fight left in this Blue Dog.
The only league match City have lost this season has been away to Liverpool, who play ‘kamikaze’ football. When City are put under pressure, cracks can be enlarged and turned into gutters.
De Bruyne v Kante
The player of the season will be Chelsea reject, Kevin De Bruyne. Looking back, Chelsea management are still wondering how they let this lethal Belgian slip away. When he plays, City are a wonderful orchestra – in tune and fine-tuned. With 14 assists, De Bruyne scored the goal that defeated Chelsea in their first meeting last November. N’Golo Kante has not been the phenomenal disruptive force like he was in the past two seasons because he has not been allowed to form a lasting partnership. There have been Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Cesc Fabregas, and even David Luiz. He has the energy and against City, it must be well directed or it will be of no consequence.
Walker v Hazard
Kyle Walker limped off the pitch against Arsenal but has been declared fit to face Eden Hazard, who had an average game against Manchester United. The Belgian would not want to go another game where he has been curtailed as the best players always find the best solutions. Walker is fast so Hazard cannot run away, it must be by being skilful and elusive to get the better of the English fullback.
Guandogan v Willian
Without Fernandinho, Ilkay Guandogan sits deeper dictating play in tandem with De Bruyne. Conte’s tactics would be to out-muscle the German midfielder and take away is concentration from instigating attacks. Willian has been the best offensive force from Chelsea in their last three matches and his free running needs a disciplined midfielder to be kept in check.
Sane vs Moses
Nigeria’s Victor Moses could have one of his toughest tasks yet at right wing back against an in form Leroy Sane. The German winger ran the Arsenal defence ragged last week as his side defeated the Gunners 3-0. Chelsea fans will be hoping Moses holds up to his potential and stops Sane from dominating the game from the wings.
Guardiola v Conte
Guardiola does not need to change much but because of the quest for excellence and the treble, he might decide to rest the like of Sergio Aguero and give the returning Gabriel Jesus some more game time. For Conte, he will have to decide whether to leave a fulminating Alvaro Morata on the bench for the know-how of Olivier Giroud, while debating on the best player to pair Kante in front of the back three.
Football results will continue to amaze and all 90 minutes are not the same. Guardiola seems to be ready to build a city dynasty while Conte seems to be a sinking man, unable to save himself.