Beginning of a blockbuster week – Chelsea vs Manchester City Preview
Watch Chelsea take on Manchester City on Saturday. The kick-off is 12:30 BST live on BT Sport.
Follow all the build-up and pre-match updates on our Twitter page @cityreport_.
Manchester City and Pep Guardiola head South this weekend as the Blues face Champions League tormentors Chelsea in our first blockbuster showdown of the season. The last time these two faced was that night in Porto - where a Kai Havertz strike on the cusp of half-time was enough to send Chelsea to the European summit and leave City and Sergio Agüero - playing his final game for the club - heartbroken.
This weekend offers the first chance of retribution for that defeat though and despite an injury crisis in midweek City‘s worries have since eased and Manchester took a sigh of relief when pictures were posted by the club which saw trio John Stones, Rodri and Aymeric Laporte back in training ahead of a vital period of the season. The club’s exceptional start to the season was built on a defensive trifecta of Rúben Dias, Rodri and Aymeric Laporte so seeing the latter pair back in training after recent concerns is a huge confidence booster ahead of the game.
Despite positive injury news, the outcome of this grudge match may not be down to the two starting XIs - more the vastly contrasting styles of the two chess masters operating their sides. Thomas Tuchel has outsmarted Pep Guardiola in all three of their clashes since the German arrived in England, leaving the Catalan scratching his head desperately trying to find a solution to Chelsea’s impenetrable defence. The two coaches have a plethora of talent at their disposal - can an undermanned City beat such a well oiled German machine or will Thomas Tuchel’s title challenge roll on with a huge victory over Pep’s men again?
The opposition: Chelsea FC
League position: 1
Top scorer: Romelu Lukaku (3)
Chelsea have started this season tremendously having steamrolled to four wins in their opening five league games. Their only dropped points of the season came at Anfield where a Reece James handball was penalised and the defender was sent off - moments before Mohamed Salah levelled. The Blues showed champion spirit though by holding on to a point with a brilliant defensive effort - an attribute they have showcased throughout the season so far.
Thomas Tuchel has transformed Chelsea since his arrival by opting to use five defenders. Frank Lampard left the club in disarray not long after a COVID-19 hit Manchester City demolished them at Stamford Bridge 3-1 - a result that sparked our season into life. Since Tuchel's arrival though the Blues have become a defensive powerhouse in the top flight and have also kept their attacking prowess - they have been the second-highest scorers in the league (12) this season, only one behind Manchester United (13). The beating heart of the Chelsea attack is Romelu Lukaku, who returned to his old club after over eight years for a record £97m in the summer. The striker has already scored three this season in his first four appearances and he is also providing for others, creating two big chances for his teammates.
Chelsea are the team to beat this season
At the heart of Chelsea's wall of defence is Eduard Mendy, who was sensational toward the back end of his debut season. The Senegalese stopper kept eleven clean sheets in the Champions League last season and won the UEFA goalkeeper of the season award - with him back fit again to face City after missing the clash at Tottenham, Tuchel can be sure he has one of the finest in the business defending his goal. The 'keeper has also made an outstanding sixteen saves this season, one of the highest in the division, which suggests that Chelsea's defence isn't as watertight as some might suggest. That shouldn't change the perception of Antonio Rudiger though - the centre-back has been sensational to start this season and is making a strong case to be an early inclusion in the PFA TOTY after carrying last season's tremendous form into this one. His partnership with the rest of the Chelsea defence has been telepathic this season and as a wise man once said, defence wins you titles. That's what Chelsea have.
Mason Mount - OUT (knock)
Christian Pulisic - OUT (ankle)
Potential XI: Mendy; Christensen, T Silva, Rudiger; Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Havertz, Lukaku, Werner
State of play: Manchester City
Thomas Tuchel and Pep Guardiola will engage in a potentially title-defining chess match tomorrow as both managers aim to put a stranglehold over the other and take the initiative in the Premier League. Some of Guardiola's chess pieces looked like they were off the table in midweek but with the news of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri being back in training with the team, maybe they're back on for tomorrow afternoon's heavyweight clash. City have yet to lay a glove on Tuchel's side, losing the first three games since the German took charge of the club and all the questions heading into the clash will be whether Pep Guardiola can find a solution.
City have struggled to create chances against this stubborn Chelsea defence but the signing of Jack Grealish has strengthened Guardiola's attacking options heading into the weekend. The midfielder has created one big chance so far this campaign and also has one assist whilst also creating 5 key passes inside the box - an area where City struggled in the Champions League final. With Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden also back in contention this weekend - if Grealish is on song, then Manchester City have a great chance in this one. The Englishman was boxed out of the game exceptionally by Southampton last weekend but he was the only creative threat in that one - if he's surrounded by players the ilk of Kevin De Bruyne this weekend then that will open up space for him to cause havoc for Chelsea and really test that defence.
Romelu Lukaku has had an excellent start to the season but it would be unfair to not point out City's strength in defence this season. With Aymeric Laporte potentially set to return to the heart of the defence for this encounter, he will rekindle a partnership with Ruben Dias that so far this season has played three matches and kept clean sheets in all three. The Blues also scored eleven goals across those games, with Laporte scoring against Norwich and Dias also assisting in the same game. The pair have looked superb together and if they are back in defence, Romelu Lukaku will have to earn his money's worth if he wants a goal.
Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish could ignite a dangerous partnership when Manchester City visit Chelsea at Stamford Bridge
John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Rodri - questionable
Ilkay Gundogan - doubtful
Oleksandr Zinchenko - OUT
Potential XI: Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Foden; Jesus, Torres, Grealish
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt & Simon Bennett
Fourth official: Robert Jones
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Dan Robathan
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