Chelsea v Man City: A Blues battle to be the third horse
Chelsea host Manchester City this Sunday in a crucial premier league encounter to decide once and for all if there will be a third contender for the title as the most unpredictable season reaches its climax. Victory for either team will force the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal to look over their shoulders for a late Blue charge whereas defeat would mean a tense battle to finish in the top four. Chelsea are effectively 6 points behind league leaders United and could leapfrog City to third place with a home win whereas defeat would see their flickering hope of retaining the title extinguished. The stakes are high, with the fate of these two teams with respect to their dual ambitions (top four finish and a crack at the title) balanced on a knife-edge. It’s no surprise that picking a favorite for this one is hard but just to give you an idea, how hard it actually is, let’s focus the microscope on certain facts.
Who’s the favorite?
- Apart from their close proximity in the premier league table, City and Chelsea are also by far the biggest spenders. If City added Edin Dzeko in January, Chelsea’s repartee came in the form of David Luiz and Fernando Torres.
- They also have highly successful Italian managers at the helm who were team-mates in the Italian national side.
- Both Blues face Manchester United in Cup competitions next month with City facing their neighbours in the FA Cup semi final whereas Chelsea will look to avenge their Champions League final defeat when they face off in the quarter finals.
- Most intriguingly, they also possess the meanest defensive records, City having conceded 25 goals and kept 13 clean sheets whereas Chelsea have kept 12 clean sheets and conceded a mere 24 goals all season.
And if those weren’t enough………….
- Chelsea are coming off a comfortable passage into the quarter finals of the Champions League, whereas the Citizens were dumped from the Europa Liga this week.
- City have managed to beat the London outfit in each of their last three meetings.
- Chelsea have managed to recover from their mid-season slump thanks to the return of Lampard and the arrival of Luiz coupled with a morale-boosting victory of Manchester United. On the other hand City have failed to win in any of their last 8 away matches (in all competitions).
- If you are about to confer the favourites tag to Chelsea you might well be reminded of Mancini’s enviable record against Ancelotti dating back to their Inter and AC Milan days so much so that the Chelsea gaffer joked in a pre-match briefing, “He has to understand that he is my friend, so sometimes he can give his friend something.”
Players to watch out for
Carlos Tevez has rattled the Chelsea defense more than most in the premier league, his exploits going back to his United days. It was his goal that clinched this tie in the favour of City when they met at Eastlands earlier this season. Only worry for City would be exhaustion as their workaholic City skipper has found the back of the net just once in his last nine appearances.
Arguably, he has single handedly turned Chelsea’s season around. He has been a perfect foil for John Terry at the back and his performance against United earned him lot of plaudits. He has been one of the rare cases where an overseas player has settled instantly in a premier league outfit. If Chelsea are to stop City from inflicting a fourth consecutive defeat on them, Luiz will have to keep the likes of Tevez and Dzeko at bay.
If Tevez epitomizes determination and industry, Silva is the one that enthralls with his skills and thrills. He is a seriously under-rated player and but for Spain’s already talented midfield would have surely been an integral member of the World Champions’ starting line-up. He has the potential to slice open even the meanest of defences and should this be a close encounter, it could be a piece of magic from the Spaniard which settles the tie.
There has been enough speculation about the pair’s ability to play together but its time they started to deliver. It hasn’t really been Drogba’s season by his standards and Torres hasn’t found the back of the net since his £50m move from Liverpool. They are proven goal scorers in the premier league and are not really identical when it comes to their strengths. If Chelsea are to avoid finishing empty-handed this season, (Ancelotti might well read this as if he is to remain Blues boss for next season) it’s high time they start to click or at least one of them takes the onus to inspire their team to finish on a high.
As much as there is a lot at stake to accomplish from this tie, there is undoubtedly a lot to lose and given there are two Italian managers at the helm, don’t be surprised to see a second goalless draw in the space of a week after none for almost two years at Stamford Bridge. Having said that, there will be too much quality on hand to produce at least one moment of magic or to look at it from a cynic’s point of view, there will be enough pressure on both teams to produce a howler!
It promises to be an exciting encounter and you can catch it this Sunday March 20th from 16:00 hours GMT.