Chelsea’s title credentials are all but gone but Pep Guardiola’s City are up for this encounter as they seek to successfully defend their English Premier League title from Liverpool and Tottenham. So all three points on Sunday against Maurizio Sarri’s Blues is a must.
Chelsea’s serial slayer, Sergio Aguero, is in good form and has scored 12 goals in 17 against the Blues; five in the last five meetings. If he is on song, Chelsea will be singing the Blues again on Sunday. But Sarri now has his own Argentine marksman in Gonzalo Higuain, who showed with two goals against Huddersfield that he could be what Chelsea have been missing.
Chelsea’s fight for a fourth-place against a resurgent Manchester United is also on and the Blues need all the points they can get because they still have to travel again to Manchester in April in what could be a top-four decider.
Guardiola labelled Sunday’s clash a ‘final’ when he spoke after the 2-0 win away over Everton on Wednesday. “Now comes a really, really big test – a big bull. Chelsea is an exceptional team with 7 days to prepare that game. We will try. We have to prepare well. This is a real final for us this weekend.”
Though Chelsea eventually triumphed last December 2-0, Sarri called it a ‘lucky’ victory. He will need all the luck to get anything from the Etihad on Sunday.
Three duels to watch
Fernandinho v Jorginho
Last December, Fernandinho was virtually on top of Chelsea’s metronome and for the first 20 minutes, all Jorginho did was defend. Fernandinho is almost irreplaceable in the City side and gives Pep’s side the balance they need between attacking and defending. However, if they give Jorginho space to create, he will move Chelsea’s armoury into position to shoot down the Citizens. But when that space is crowded, how will Jorginho fare?
Sergio Aguero v Antonio Rudiger
One player that loves playing against Chelsea is Argentina’s pocket rocket, Sergio Aguero, who has scored five goals in his last five meetings with Chelsea. It is instructive he was not available for selection last December when City lost at Stamford Bridge. Rudiger’s form has not been the best in recent matches but he is a big game player though prone to being too physical.
Kyle Walker v Eden Hazard
If City’s right back goes walkabout, Hazard will profit the space that would be afforded. When Hazard is on song, there is arguably no defender that can keep him in check. But Walker has speed and good upper body strength to be able to defend the right flank while coming into the pitch to help Fernandinho.
|Passes Completed [EPL]||14199||14054|
|Chances created from Open Play [EPL]||265||245|
|Tackles Made [EPL]||310||350|
|Tackles Won [EPL]||207||204|
|Goals Scored [All Competitions]||109||70|
|Goals Conceded [All Competitions]||26||31|
What the Managers are saying
“I know in the last five or six years what happened with the champions the year after, in which position they were. All of them, they were out. They did not have a chance in that period to win the Premier League. We are there. That is one of the things I am most delighted about this season.”– Pep Guardiola, Manchester City Manager
“You know very well that the midfield of Manchester City is one of the best in the world, with Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, David Silva. Technically I think they have the best midfield in Europe at the moment so it will be very difficult to be in control of the match, but I think the match is more than just the strikers.” – Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea Manager
Man. City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte; Fernandinho, David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Sterling, Mahrez, Aguero
Chelsea: Arrizibalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz; Alonso; Jorginho; Kovacic, Kante, Hazard, Willian, Higuain
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