Chelsea vs Manchester City: Preview


Even in the early parts of the season, games like the one we will see on Sunday have massive signifigance. Chelsea and City, the two favorites for the title, meet at the Ethiad, in a match that will carry title implications for both. James Sutherland and Ben Clarke take a look at the game, who will be crucial for each team, and what the result will be.

What form are Chelsea and City in?

James: Chelsea have been captivating in the league. New signings Diego Costa and Cesc Fabergas have slotted into the squad perfectly, with Costa scoring 7 in his first four. Eden Hazard has been on top of his game, with goalscoring and creative pressure taken off him. Thibaut Courtois has also justified Jose Mourinho’s choice to give him the keeper job, over stalwart Petr Cech, with impressive performances against Burnley and Leicester.

As a team, the Blues are clicking amazingly. The attack is firing on all cylinders, with Costa, Hazard and Fabergas all connecting. Chelsea has scored a league high 15 goals, but the most important aspect of their success hasn’t been the sheer number of goals. It is Chelsea’s ability to bomb opponents with a 10-15 minute torrent of offense, and score several in that period. Then the Blues settle down, and play defense, still looking to score on the counter. This tactic worked amazingly against Swansea, Leicester and Burnely, while Everton pushed the cards in a new direction.

Chelsea are coming off a disappointing start to the Champions League, drawing 1-1 with Schalke at home. Diego Costa made only a brief appearance in the game, and his abscence was almost certainly the reason Chelsea didn’t convert more of their chances. However, the team still looked strong, and with Costa back in the lineup, as well as Oscar, the Blues should be back to normal.

Ben: I’ll be honest and admit that Pellegrini’s lads haven’t had an ideal start. A relatively easy 3-1 win against last year’s runners up Liverpool boded well for City’s season, but soon came the infamous loss against Stoke that was not only irritating in terms of the result but also because Man City played well all game and couldn’t finish – a worrying prospect given Pellegrini’s attacking style.

Post international break, City fought hard for a draw against Arsenal, which at the time, I believed was a valiant result against a great looking side; but after watching their footballing annihilation at Signal Iduna Park against Borussia Dortmund, I can’t help but think we could have got more out of the game.

Bayern at the Allianz was another courageous battle – but a last minute goal took all three points from our hands. Usually City can close off games when they like, but I wouldn’t look too much into a loss at one of the world’s best sides apart from praising the team and particularly Joe Hart for their performance. With Joe Hart hopefully back on top, City can boast another top class weapon in their Arsenal come Sunday.

More from Chelsea

What will the key matchup be?

James: Vincent Kompany vs Diego Costa: Kompany is the best defender in the league, right now, and Costa is the best attacker in the league, right now. The battle with be a physical test for both, and it will be key to the game. Without Costa, Chelsea look dangerous, but not potent. They can create chances, but not finish them. Without Kompany in the back, City look lost, without a leader. Martin Demichelis simply isn’t up to the cut of defending Daniel Sturridge’s and Diego Costa’s. Both players will hold the game in their hands, and any slip up from either could mean that game.

Ben: Vincent Kompany vs Diego Costa: Should he play (reports see him as a slight doubt, but Costa has had a habit thus far of getting rival fans’ hopes up, then scoring for fun the day he was meant to be missing through injury), Diego Costa shouldn’t be City’s one and only concern – as this can only give Chelsea a further advantage through a Hazard and Fabregas relatively forgotten (should City choose to keep all eyes on the striker) – but Pellegrini’s side will also be punished if they neglect to give Costa some special attention.

Of course the man for the job is Vincent Kompany. Having Costa marked by one of the best centre-halves in the game can only be the best medication for the striker’s fiery form. Although Vinnie can be prone to a few slip ups (vs Liverpool last year for example) I’ve never once seen the Belgian brick wall let a striker out of his sight. Although Costa has the build to match him, Vincent’s aggression should give him the one up on the Spain forward, given Costa’s proneness to being pushed around by more dominating centre halves. Kompany’s pace should match Costa’s also, but it’s all up to how Chelsea provide for – and City’s whole team prevent – the lone striker.

Sergio Aguero wheels away after finding the opener for City (image courtesy of the Premier League’s official Facebook page)

 What will the result be?

James: 4-3 Chelsea. The game will be super entertaining, and high scoring. Even though Jose will try to set Chelsea up in a defensive style, like last year, the defense simply hasn’t been up to par. The main problem has been Branislav Ivanovic, who consistently comes too far in. David Silva and James Milner will look to exploit that side of the field, and if Mourinho starts Andre Schurrle, who isn’t a great defensive player himself, then that will be the biggest hole in Chelsea’s lineup.

However, one of Chelsea’s great strengths is that they can match teams goal for goal. That’s what they’ll do with City, and the game will eventually come down to who has the better goalkeeper, to stop the close chances. In that area, Chelsea have the clear advantage; Joe Hart is a great goalie, but he can’t even begin to compare to Courtois. Chelsea will rely on its offense and Courtois, the new star, to win the game.

Ben: 1-1: Chelsea’s defence hasn’t thus far been as solid as in previous years, conceding two against Swansea, one against Burnley, and three against Everton this season; however, neither has City’s attack, who have struggled to find the net in their games with Stoke, Bayern and to an extent Arsenal (who they played against with not quite as much of the attacking venom as they often do). A 1-1 draw would be fair enough for both sides, who would really just look to make it out of the game with as few bruises as possible.