Chelsea face Champions League semi-finalists Manchester City on Saturday evening, as the Blues look to bounce back from defeat at Swansea. After that awful performance at the Liberty, Guus Hiddink called on his men to step up. Will the Dutchman ring the changes after that display, or will he stick with the same side ahead of this clash?
Hiddink will have Diego Costa available again after suspension, and the forward should make a welcome return to the team. Alexandre Pato hasn’t really impressed in his two recent appearances. With Costa back, the Blues have genuine goal threat. Against Swansea, they clearly struggled going forward. At least now they’ll have some cutting edge.
As for the rest of the team, it will be interesting to see just how much Hiddink relies on youth. He’s played a few youngsters so far, but will he keep them in against City? It would be a good learning curve for them, but they could well be overpowered by a very strong City side.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men put in a Chelsea-like performance against PSG in midweek. Not the recent kind of poor Chelsea performance, but the solid, tough to beat European displays the team used to have regularly. That team is gone now, but they’re being emulated by City. What makes it even harder to swallow is that a former Chelsea player, Kevin De Bruyne, scored the winner for them against PSG.
This game will show Chelsea just how far the team has fallen, it’s certainly one that Antonio Conte should be watching. The side he takes over are about to have a massive examination, and it’s hard to see them passing it. City are a strong side full of pace, although they do have a soft defence.
This City side are Champions League semi-finalists, but they’ll be completely changed for next season. Pep Guardiola will have them playing a different way, and most likely pushing for the title. Not only do Chelsea have to match City now, they have to find a way to catch up while the Manchester side improve.
So, while Chelsea don’t have anything to play for right now, this is a big game for them. A performance like the one at Swansea can’t be allowed to happen again, even if the team is practically on holiday. Not only does it make the champions look bad, but it’s also bad for the league. Even with nothing to play for, Chelsea have to push for a win to keep the league competitive and show they might challenge next season.
Hopefully we will see a bit more fight from the Blues, and possibly even a statement of intent. They can’t catch City this season, but they’ll be hoping to next term. A win here would send out a message that they can do that. However, given how Hiddink’s time at Stamford Bridge has gone, another draw looks likely.
LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw