Preview: Manchester City v Chelsea
And so we move from defeat to West Brom’s second string to the Champions. Carlo Ancelotti’s freescoring side pose our biggest test so far yet it shouldn’t be forgotten we also pose theirs.
Roberto Mancini came through the opening fixtures against Tottenham and Liverpool with four points, and will be looking for a performance at least as good as we provided against Roy Hodgson’s side. One thing’s for sure, after we did the double over them last season, Chelsea won’t be underestimating us.
The build up to the game is dominated by injuries, with neither manager overly concerned about midweek Carling Cup defeats. For Mancini it’s a defensive crisis with Micah Richards now confirmed as not playing.
In his press conference Mancini confirmed that Lescott (trained one day) or Boateng (getting up to speed for a week) could be called upon, or Boyata could be asked to play out of position at full-back. The Belgian teenager did ok at right-back against Blackburn, but this would be a big ask. James Milner could even step in.
Which flank Pablo Zabaleta starts on is anybody’s guess. Mancini will be expecting his midfield to protect his full-backs more than ever.
Adebayor could be on the bench, but aside from Richards it looks like being the same side that won at Wigan. It’s to be hoped that Mancini doesn’t start again with the bizarre 4-1-2-2-1 formation that left Tevez totally isolated and the midfielders wondering where they should playing.
The two defensive midfielders of de Jong and Barry with Yaya in front is a better system for this kind of bruising fixture – as we saw against Liverpool. It’s to be hoped Yaya shows a little more urgency and willingness to get forward than we’ve seen in his last couple of games.
“We need to win continuously so that we can remain in the top four. It doesn’t matter who comes here, whether it’s Chelsea or a smaller team, we need to win every game.”
For Chelsea, the failure of Lampard to recover from his hernia leaves the muscular trio of Essien, Mikel and Ramires set to play in midfield. Don’t expect much ground to be given by either side in this area.
For all their midweek injuries to Kalou, Benayoun and Kakuta, Chelsea still have enough in attack to cause problems. They just won’t have so many options from the bench. Apparently Ancelotti has already named his side as Cech, Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramires, Anelka, Drogba, Malouda. Hardly ravaged by injury!
John Terry’s return means Ivanovic will revert to right-back. Ferreira was the potential weak link in the Chelsea defence, so the job of our left winger is that bit harder.
With Adam Johnson playing a full 90 minutes against West Brom, we can assume that he will start on the bench. If Yaya plays in the creative midfield position with Milner and Silva on either side, then we are painfully lacking in pace. Tevez works hard but has no burst of speed either.
Chelsea will undoubtedly have periods of possession and catching them on the break as we did in our victory at Stamford Bridge would have been a useful tactic. Maybe Mancini intends to keep it tight initially and bring on Johnson in the second half.
Mancini prefers to play his flank players ‘inside out’ which would result in Silva on our right. The Spaniard has shown little in the way of tracking back thus far and surely we need someone better against Ashley Cole. Milner’s stamina makes him the best candidate with Silva asked to trick his way past Ivanovic.
With our attacking full-backs still injured, and Mancini’s penchant for solidity, we’re unlikely to be cavalier in our approach. With our defence having conceded only two league goals this season, the only side who can better that is Chelsea with one. This is not a game where we want to concede the first goal.
If City can continue their miserly streak at the back, then it’s quite possible the game could end up goalless. It’s worth bearing in mind that neither manager would consider that a disaster.
Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Boateng – K Toure – Kompany – Zabaleta
de Jong – Barry
Milner – Y Toure – Silva
Prediction: 2-0 City.