Manchester City — Chelsea (FA Cup)
And so they meet again, Manuel Pellegrini and José Mourinho, for the third time this season. The Etihad will be burning with expectation of a rerun of that amazing clash just 11 days ago. Chelsea came out on top then, in fact they did in both head-to-head’s. We keep hearing that the FA Cup comes third, the League and Champions League are the real priorities, but losing never helped anyone’s competitive hedge. Manchester City will want to regain their home aura of invincibility and Mourinho would never pass on the chance to crush Pellegrini.
Being forced to postpone Wednesday’s match against Sunderland may prove to be a blessing for Manuel Pellegrini’s men. Sure, they will have to find an alternate date for the fixture among their already overworked schedule but at least they had some rest and bought time for some key players’ recovery. The all-mighty Manchester City squad comes short with Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Nasri in the treatment room. Saturday will still be too soon for the first two, but Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia are ready to pitch in. The French International sustained a medial ligament damage that forced him to surgery and a 6-week-stopage and is now deemed fit by the Chilean Manager. Certainly good news for the injury-stricken Citizens. Garcia is also welcomed back, another option to the vacant spot Fernandinho’s absence left. A week and a half ago, when they last met Chelsea for the League, Demichelis filled that void with poor results. He lacked pace, movement and initiative. Last weekend Pellegrini tried Milner alongside Touré. Wasn’t has disastrous but then again it was Norwich they were up against, not Chelsea’s front men. And if the FA didn’t work in such mysterious ways City could head into this tie facing yet another major disturbance in the force. Why on earth would Yaya Touré avoid penalty after kicking and opponent in the back when he was already on the ground?
In 3 days Manchester City will host Barcelona at the Etihad for the Champions League knock-out stages, a game in which the Citizens are bound to give all they have in order to send the Catalans off. If Pellegrini could he would spare a few of his men, but he has no margin to do so. It’s that time of the year, either win or die trying.
Probable line-up: Pantilimon — Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy — Navas, Milner, Touré, Silva — Negredo, Dzeko.
eTo their Manager’s dismay the Blues failed to secure the three points that would isolate them atop of the Premier League table on Tuesday. They are still 1st, with 57 points, one more than Arsenal, but can be caught up by City that is one game shorter. Chelsea is going through a great period of form lately but in mid-week they failed to kill the win after Ivanovic’s opener and ended up conceding and equalizer in the final minutes of the game. John Terry was badly missed at the Hawthorns, with him in the field it is unlikely they would drop the two points. He would have used his authority and experience to straighten them up defensively. Gary Cahill limped out on Tuesday with a calf injury and is definitely ruled out for Saturday. All the more pressure to bring Terry back in although you can’t rush a muscle damage recovery in a 33-year-old man unless you’re prepared to risk losing him for the rest of the season. So let’s take a look of what exactly awaits Mourinho side in the next 5 weeks. The FA Cup fixture at the Etihad, Galatasaray — first away and later at Stamford Bridge — Fulham and Villa on the road, Everton, Tottenham, and Arsenal at home. All challenging ties for even those at the bottom of the table will be fighting for survival.
Probable line-up: Schwarzer — Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Azpilicueta — Lampard, Matic, Ramires — Schurrle, Hazard — Torres.
José Mourinho has been utterly successful rattling Manuel Pellegrini’s cage, ever since he replaced him at Real Madrid. Now that they are the two strongest contenders to the League title the rivalry is ever more vibrant. They’ll be planning Saturday’s clash to exhaustion but I can tell what the worst case scenario for both sides is: having to drag this into a rematch.