Manchester City visit the Bridge on Saturday as the Premier League’s top two come head to head in a monster of a clash. With a five point gap separating these two sides, this game could be crucial to deciding the destination of this season’s title, and with such high stakes potentially on the line, this is the biggest game of the season so far.
The problem for both sides is that they come into the game without some of their key players. For Chelsea, they had a gruelling League Cup semi-final clash with Liverpool on Tuesday that lasted 120 minutes, which is bound to take its toll. Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis both came off injured in that game, and they’re both doubts for the City clash. Luis played well on Tuesday, so missing him is a shame, but Cesar Azpilicueta is an able deputy.
Fabregas is the bigger miss, and he may be joined by top scorer Diego Costa. The frontman was seen stamping on Martin Skrtel during the League Cup game, and the FA could well hit him with a ban after some blanket coverage by Sky Sports News. If those three were out, that would be a massive blow to Jose Mourinho in a match he could really do with winning.
Having said that, City are missing a few players of their own. They’re currently without Samir Nasri, who is injured, while Yaya Toure and Wilfred Bony are currently at the African Cup of Nations. There is a chance they will be back in time for the game on Saturday, but without them City would certainly be a weaker team.
There’s also the Frank Lampard sub-plot going into this game, with the Blues legend possibly starting for City on Saturday. With Toure gone, they need experience and forward runs from midfield, and Lampard is the perfect candidate for that. While it may be difficult for the home fans to see him play against their team, especially since he extended his deal last month, he should still get a good welcome at his former stomping ground.
The big question going into the match is how are both teams planning to set up? City really should come here playing to avoid defeat, as a loss would open a huge gap at the top, but they’re likely to stick to their guns and attack. While Chelsea, who know just how big a win could be, will hopefully go for the game and try and take the three points. A lot of that will probably depend on the availability of Fabregas and Costa.
While we’ve seen City claw back a deficit already this season, an eight point lead would be a huge advantage for the Pensioners. The Blues would still be catchable at the top, but they’d know they were strong, strong favourites, and they’d have the title comfortably in their hands. While a draw would keep them ahead, City haven’t won in three of their last four, and hopefully Mourinho and his team smell blood heading in to this one.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1