Manchester City — Chelsea (Premier League)
Now that Manchester City have moved ahead of the table the title in theirs to lose. For Jose Mourinho wining the League wasn’t in the contract for his first year back. But as long as Chelsea is trailing at the top they will have a go at it. It’s not just first and third going head-to-head. It’s all about the two top stronger contenders measuring each other up and stating their claims. Monday night, at the Etihad, the round of matches closes in style. How awesome is that?
Midweek’s Premier League fixtures were working just fine for Manchester City. Arsenal’s stumble at St. Mary’s was their way to step aside and clear the path for the Citizens to reach number one. Some say it’s about time since they have been dominant all season long and the strongest candidates to win it. Even their next opposition helped, losing a couple of points too. If it wasn’t for Aguero’s hamstring injury, the 5-1 win at White Hart Lane would have been an even more memorable moment. How unfortunate for a guy that was just getting back from a calf problem, only his third match since. He was he usual self in the 45 minutes he was on the pitch, exhibiting the class and pace he is renowned for, and scored the opener for the Citizens. Now he risks another month in the side-lines, with huge implications for City’s ambitions in the season. Four weeks probably means he will miss both Chelsea ties, the Champions League fixture against Barcelona and even the Capital One Cup final at Wembley. The squad was able to cope with his absence the first time around. Negredo revealed himself a pretty safe and effective choice, now it’s time Dzeko and back to fitness Jovetic to step up also.
Manchester City are fighting in four fronts — League, both cups and Champions — and so far excelling in all. January madness had no place at the Etihad. If it’s true you can’t have too many good players, their balance is just right so don’t mess with it. Their score-board this season is jaw-dropping, 115-40, an average of 3.11 goals per game. Facing them at home has been a daunting prospect, they have 11 wins for as many League home ties. All competitions considered they were only defeated once in their home field, by Bayern Munich.
Aguero, Nasri and Javi Garcia are ruled out.
Probable line-up: Hart — Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov — Touré, Fernandinho — Navas, Silva — Dzeko, Negredo.
Mourinho surely din not anticipate being held at Stamford Bridge by Sam Allardyce. Not now, not when Arsenal was finally dropping points. Call it “19th century’s football” was just an unnecessary excuse, whining if you will. In modern football, Jose, a team can’t have 39 attempts on goal and come out empty handed. It’s just unacceptable. The Hammers played with the weapons they had, has Mourinho’s strategic mind has so often commanded in their own teams.
No time to dwell on it, though. City await and Jose Mourinho thrives in this major battles of mind, preparing every detail to utterly break his opponent to pieces. Midweek’s momentarily lapse aside, Chelsea are doing really well at the moment, 7 victories for their last 9 unbeaten matches. The Blues have the best defence of the Premier League and in the last 8 ties only 3 teams managed to beat Petr Cech. They continue to have a striker issue, Chelsea’s top scorer being Eden Hazard. And don’t even start with Mata’s business, a squad that has Willian, Oscar and the Belgium is not lacking creativity or talent. If Mourinho steps out of Manchester with any points he would have add power to his reputation of tactical genius. No matter how well Chelsea is beating City at home will be literally a case of mind over matter.
Marco van Ginkel and Fernando Torres are long-term casualties.
Probable line-up: Cech — Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta — Matic, Lampard — Hazard, Oscar, Ramires — Eto’o.
A little over 3 months ago Chelsea came out victorious of the reverse tie. Probably none of the scorers there will be fielded at the Etihad, Aguero and Torres due to severe injuries, André Shurrle by choice. Since then both side have done nothing but improve their form and strength their claims to the various silverware options. Pellegri has made the Citizens blossom in their full potential, Mourinho is getting there. I expect nothing less than great football with a touch of chess. Game on.