Manchester City seek revenge on Chelsea


Manchester City will be keen to secure three points and keep the pressure on Premier League leaders Liverpool when they face Chelsea this afternoon. City have closed the gap to three points in recent weeks with Liverpool drawing two consecutive games against Leicester City and West Ham United.

Manchester City come into their third game in seven days knowing that nine points from three tough games would show the rest of the league that they still have the fight and desire to win back-to-back titles, something that hasn’t been achieved in ten years, since City’s arch rivals Manchester United won three titles in a row in 2006/07, 2007/08, 2008/09. A Sergio Aguero hat-trick secured a win against Arsenal a week ago whilst Guardiola’s side ground out a tough win at Goodison Park on Wednesday night.

City manager Pep Guardiola hasn’t been afraid to put pressure on his team this week, stating that he’s sure a win against Chelsea would mean his side will be fighting for the title come the end of the season. The Spaniard has re-iterated that his side underestimate nobody and that they intend to defend their title.

“If we win against Chelsea I am sure we will be fighting to be champions again at the end of the season.”

This season is a bit different from the last two or three, it might be a battle right to the end. That is what I like about it. People say we underestimated Newcastle, or opponents in Europe, or whatever, but I say we are in the Carabao Cup final and still fighting in all the competitions. We don’t underestimate anyone.

In the last five or six years no English champion has managed to put up a decent defence the following season, but we intend to do so and we are not giving up.”

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea side have had an inconsistent season so far, winning 15, drawing five and losing five. They sit in Fifth place in the table, 12 points behind today’s opponents City.
Chelsea started the season in the best way possible, winning their opening five games and remaining unbeaten in the league until the 24th November when they lost 3-1 to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

Sarri’s side have scored 45 goals in 25 games, the least amount of goals scored out of the six sides battling for a place in the top four and the manager and his players have faced criticism for their lack of goals. Striker Alvaro Morata struggled in his first season for the Blues and continued to struggle in his 16 league games under Sarri this season, scoring five goals but often missing clear cut chances that a striker with his price tag and as the first-choice striker for a side like Chelsea, simply cannot miss. Morata joined Atletico Madrid in January on an 18-month loan deal.

Former Napoli manager Sarri has received his fair share of criticism from fans for his style of play and reluctance to play anything other than Sarrismo (Sarri-ball), a system built on triangular passing patterns that slowly pull apart opposing teams defences in order to create openings. The system worked to a degree in Italy a footballing country known for its defensively astute tactics. However, it hasn’t had the same success in England where the tempo is higher and where even a lot of the sides in the bottom half of the division will come out and attack the big sides. Sarri has stuck to his approach, which can be seen by the fact that five of the top ten players with the highest number of passes in the league are Chelsea players- Jorginho, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso. Chelsea fans won’t be surprised by the fact that four of these players happen to be their regular back four. The blues dominate teams in possession but seem to lack that cutting edge and a plan B.

Chelsea won the reverse fixture 2-0 at Stamford Bridge back in December, City’s first defeat of the season which put an end to the talk of Guardiola’s side going a full season unbeaten. In possibly Chelsea’s best performance this season they limited City to only four shots on target whilst goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz secured all three points. It was a great display from the Blues, however Sarri downplayed the result in his press conference leading up to todays game, whilst also praising Guardiola’s side-

“At the moment Manchester City are the best team in Europe.”

I think we were lucky (in December), because we scored in a very difficult moment of the match. In that match we defended really very well because they had only three goal opportunities, no more.
It’s not easy against Man City to give them only three or four opportunities.”

City manager Guardiola also praised Sarri’s side in his pre-match press conference and said that his side need to play as if it’s a final-

“You see the midfield players, the strikers, the best strikers in the world are there [at Chelsea].

The midfield players are the best in the world. A good keeper, experienced defenders, good organisation defensive, offensive. They know exactly what they want to do.
I have a lot of respect. The game on Sunday is a final for us. I want to feel that it’s an absolute final for us and we need to play in that way.”

Chelsea will be confident they can leave the Etihad Stadium on Sunday evening with a result. Their lack of cutting edge and ability to score goals has been a problem for most of the season, however their last three games will give the Stamford Bridge faithful hope. The blues have scored 12 goals in their last three matches in all competitions and many will see their signing of one of Europe’s most prolific strikers Gonzalo Higuain, as the best piece of business in the January transfer window.

Higuain played for Sarri at Napoli and their season together, the 2015/16 season, was arguably the Argentine’s best to date, scoring 36 goals in 35 Serie A games. The striker has an incredible record, scoring 292 goals in 572 games to date in his club career, whilst also scoring 31 goals in 75 appearances for his national side. The former Juventus man scored two goals in Chelsea’s 5-0 thumping of bottom of the table Huddersfield Town last weekend and the blues fans will hope he continues to find the back of the net.

Former Napoli men Sarri and Higuain re-join forces in the Premier League
(Photo: Gazeta Koha Jone)

Key Head-to-Head Stats

– City have lost three of their last five against Chelsea in the league, scoring only four goals.

– Chelsea have only won two games in their last nine visits to the Etihad Stadium.

– Guardiola has lost more league games against Chelsea (three) than any other team in his career.

– Sergio Aguero has scored five goals in his last five league games against Chelsea.

– Eden Hazard has made a key contribution to five goals in his last five league games against City, with 3 goals and 2 assists, the assists coming in Chelsea-s 2-0 win in December.

Team News

Manchester City: City will be without Claudio Bravo (Achilles), Benjamin Mendy (Knee) and Captain Vincent Kompany remains unavailable due to a muscular problem.

Chelsea: Antonio Rudiger could return to the starting line-up after being out with a knee injury, however Callum Hudson- Odoi has an illness and is unlikely to even make the substitute bench.


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