The two favourites for the Premier League title meet on Sunday as league leaders Chelsea travel to champions Manchester City. After winning four games out of four so far, Chelsea’s 100% record is on the line at the Etihad, but they’ll travel to Manchester full of confidence.
Their 1-0 win at the Etihad was probably their best result of last season, and showed how brilliant Jose Mourinho is at the tactical side of the game. The Chelsea boss masterminded a fantastic win by targeting City’s weaknesses, but he’ll need to be at his very best to do it again.
While City haven’t looked great so far this season, they’re still a very good side. They may have lost to Stoke and looked below par in most other games, but at home they’re dangerous, as they showed when they beat Liverpool 3-1. Chelsea’s defence will have to be at their very best to get a result here, and they’ll certainly need a more focused defence and midfield than they showed in the 4-2 win over Swansea last week, or the 6-3 win at Everton prior to that.
It’s likely that Mourinho will continue with the 4-3-3 formation that he prefers in these big games. With a midfield three of Ramires, Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas, there’s enough protection for the back four with those three tracking runners and closing off space. In addition to that, Fabregas can play further forward when Chelsea are in possession, moving up to a number 10 role behind Costa, changing it in to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
It’s those kind of in-game tactical tweaks that Mourinho will rely on here, being in the best possible shape to both defend and attack against City. This is going to be a different game than Chelsea’s last few, which have been quite open and high scoring. With an aggregate score of 15-6 in their four games this season, the Blues have been more concerned with attacking than defending.
That happened at the start of last season, the only difference here is that Chelsea now have a forward who can score goals and create space for others. Last season Chelsea had four goals from their first four games, and it took them nine games to get to 15 league goals. That led to Mourinho going for a more defensive approach, and we could see that tactic brought back here.
This will be Chelsea’s biggest test so far, and possibly their biggest test of the season all together. Going to City, who really need the win, will be difficult. The Citizens’ attack is the best equipped in the league to trouble the Chelsea defence, and after last season’s result Pellegrini will be looking to get one over on Mourinho. It’ll be a tight, hard fought game, and even a point might be a good result for Chelsea.
LCN Verdict: 0-0