It may just be January, but many of the footballing fraternity are calling this match a potential title decider, as league leaders Chelsea host second placed Manchester City in a thrilling showdown on Saturday. While Chelsea lead the table by 5 points, this match is almost a must win match for Manchester City if they are to gain momentum in the title race.
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Chelsea are almost certain to miss their top scorer Diego Costa on Saturday, as FA is set to slap him with a 3 match ban for stamping on Emre Can on Tuesday in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semi-final against Liverpool. Costa will appeal against any sanction by the FA, and by Friday it will be clear whether he will be able to face City. Another of Chelsea’s stars this season, Cesc Fabregas, is doubtful with a hamstring injury, as he limped out of the match against Liverpool early in the second half. Ivanovic had a deep cut on his foot after a collision with Coutinho, and played through the pain, scoring the winner, which means he should be available for the match on Saturday, although he needed stitches after the match. Another fullback Filipe Luis picked up a minor calf injury against Liverpool, and in case he is unable to recover, Azpilicueta will be the perfect replacement. Andre Schurrle is reportedly on his way to Wolfsburg, with Juan Cuadrado seemingly on his way in, which means Schurrle will not be in the squad, while Cuadrado may feature against City if he is signed by Friday. Mourinho might choose to select Cahill ahead of Zouma, beside Terry, while Ramires will play alongside Matic if Fabregas misses out. Drogba will lead the line in case of a ban for Costa.
Ivory Coast’s victory over Cameroon means they are through to the round of 16 and so, City talisman Yaya Toure, and their newest acquisition Wilfried Bony will miss the match against Chelsea due to international duty. Samir Nasri is out with a calf injury, while Mangala remains sidelined with a groin strain. Former Chelsea midfielder and legend Frank Lampard will be making a return to Stamford Bridge for the first time after he left Chelsea, and is set to get a warm emotional welcome from the fans. Sergio Aguero will lead the line, with Navas and Milner on both flanks. David Silva, Lampard and Fernando are expected to line up in midfield. Captain Vincent Kompany and Demichelis are expected to line up at the back with Zabaleta and Clichy at full back positions.
After a shock exit from the FA Cup at the hands of League One side Bradford City at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea picked themselves up and beat Liverpool in their next match to book a place at Wembley, for the Capital One Cup final against Tottenham Hotspur. Chelsea played 120 minutes of football on Tuesday and may feel fatigued, but they will also remind themselves that a win on Saturday will put them in the driving seat for the title race. If Costa and Fabregas miss the match, Chelsea may play more defensively, in order to keep City from winning, as a win for City would see the 5-point gap reduce to 2.
The absence of Yaya Toure has been very costly, as City have failed to win their last 3 matches. After a 2-0 loss against Arsenal at the Etihad, City too were knocked out of the FA Cup by a lower division side at home, as they were defeated 2-0 by Middlesbrough, a team that is managed by Jose Mourinho’s former assistant at Real Madrid, Aitor Karanka. City know a win could reduce the gap from Chelsea to only 2 points, but will also be aware that a loss could extend the gap to 8 points, which might be too much to recover. With only 5 points from their last 4 Premier League matches, Manuel Pellegrini will be demanding an improvement from his players, which should make for a tremendously close affair.
Chelsea have won 4 and lost 2 of their last 8 Premier League matches against Manchester City. Chelsea have won 11 of their last 16 home matches against City in the Premier League. Manchester City have had the most possession in the league, with an average of 60%. Chelsea have had the most shots on target per match with 6.2.
REVERSE FIXTURE THIS SEASON
Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea 21/09/2014
LAST 5 PREMIER LEAGUE MEETINGS
Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea 21/09/2014
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea 03/02/2014
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City 21/10/2013
Manchester City 2-0 Chelsea 24/02/2013
Chelsea 0-0 Manchester City 25/11/2012
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UPS
Chelsea: Courtois (GK), Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (C), Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Hazard, Willian, Oscar, Costa.
Manchester City: Hart (GK), Zabaleta, Kompany (C), Demichelis, Clichy, Fernando, Lampard, Silva, Navas, Milner, Aguero.
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester City
TIME: 1730 GMT / 2300 IST
VENUE: Stamford Bridge
REFEREE: Mark Clattenburg
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Edited By: Ankur Bhatt