Omicron overstaying its welcome? – Manchester City vs Chelsea Preview
Manchester City welcome Chelsea to the Etihad for the early kick-off. The league leaders had a rare rest in midweek as they were not involved in their annual Carabao Cup semi-final. Elsewhere, Chelsea faced Tottenham on Wednesday evening and ran out eventual 1-0 winners. The game kicks off at 12:30 pm (GMT) and will be broadcast live on BT Sport in the UK.
The Premier League champions do not get injuries and do not get Covid-19, apparently. This is according to both Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel after Tuchel echoed this sentiment in his press conference. I suppose that means we have a fully fit (and larger) squad than Chelsea for tomorrow's game. Sadly, Guardiola confirmed in his press conference on Friday afternoon that Omicron has remained within the camp and there have been more positive cases.
In line with the stance of the club on confidentiality, Guardiola did not disclose who has tested positive, nor how many had tested positive. Therefore, it will be difficult to predict who is fit and ready to play come Saturday afternoon. Yet I will give it my best attempt...
Predicted City XI:
Ederson, Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo, Rodri, Silva, De Bruyne, Palmer, Foden, Sterling.
The last outing for the reigning champions was a fun FA Cup 3rd round game against Swindon. Cole Palmer was the standout performer and story in the 4-1 victory, he was brilliant and looked at home in a very strong starting XI. Picking Palmer in my expected starting XI comes from a desire from myself for him to start, but I also believe it is possible depending on the Covid-19 situation. It would be very exciting to see how he would fare against the European Champions.
If City are able to beat Chelsea on Saturday, it will be their 12th league win in a row, and they will go 13 points clear of Chelsea in 2nd place. If this was not enough motivation for the current league leaders, the return of Guardiola to the dugout will definitely add encouragement to both the fans and players to get another crucial victory.
The win against Arsenal last time out in the league was not our finest performance, but credit to Arsenal they were excellent in the first 45 minutes and gave us a really hard test. I expect the game against Chelsea to be just as uncomfortable at times. Last game at the Etihad against Chelsea, Tuchel's side won the second out of three victories that season. Hopefully, the performance on Saturday instead mirrors the 1-0 victory at the start of the season.
I have predicted Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden to come back into the side after their suspected period of isolation. Raheem Sterling will enter this fixture off the back of being awarded the PL Player of the Month for December 2021. An award that he thoroughly deserved, due to his return to form. I am intrigued to see which players are available tomorrow, but the one name I will look for first when the line-ups are announced is Rodri (closely followed by Ruben Dias). Rodri has been immense this season and will be crucial against an imperious midfield duo of Kanté and Kovacic.
If City win this it will make yet another statement and put even more pressure on the chasing pack.
Referee: Craig Pawson
Assistants: Lee Betts, Richard West
Fourth Official: Johnathan Moss
VAR: Darren England
Assistant VAR: Sian Massey-Ellis
Chelsea are currently sat in 2nd place in the Premier League, this is after they have won one in their last five games, a 3-2 victory against Leeds. This is a slightly misleading statistic as one of these draws was against Liverpool and they have recently beaten Tottenham in both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final.
As Tuchel is keen to remind us, Chelsea themselves have been impacted by Covid cases, with Andreas Christensen the latest player to have tested positive.
It will be interesting to see how Chelsea set up on Saturday because in the game at Stamford Bridge they changed system to a 3-5-2. I would imagine after it did not work at Stamford Bridge and we will likely see the return of the 3-4-3. Timo Werner and Romelu Lukaku both started on Wednesday night, and I would be surprised if at least one of them did not get the start again. Nonetheless, Chelsea have an excellent squad and anybody that plays will be dangerous and could cause problems for the City defence.
The London side have scored 45 goals and conceded just 16, boasting an impressive defensive record in the league that is to be expected from this Chelsea side. This will be a very difficult game for Guardiola's men because as we know, Chelsea are a difficult team to play against.
This will be a good contest, between two of the best teams in the world. However, I believe Pep's side will win once again. I predict we will win 3-1 with Raheem Sterling, Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne scoring the goals.
Written by: @benking200012
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