A potential league decider gets underway at Stamford Bridge this Saturday, as leaders Chelsea host the defending champions Manchester City. The Analyst takes a look at how this clash could play out in the PlayON stakes.
Not so much the new money of English football any longer, but the established powers that be – Chelsea and Manchester City have so far looked the only credible inheritors of Premier League glory this season.
Unlike this year’s incarnations of United, Liverpool and to a lesser extent Arsenal, Chelsea and City look the only sides equipped with the requisite experience and talent resources to actually go the distance. That said, even at a comfortable first and second place in the league respectively, these two teams are far from unbreakable.
Chelsea, have been shown up in recent weeks as mere mortals, first at a Tottenham 5-3 drubbing, and then a 2-4 anomaly at home to Bradford in the FA Cup – two jarringly high scoring games to be inflicted upon this previously rocksteady Chelsea. City, meanwhile, are far from the established force of last season and were thoroughly dominated in defeat to Arsenal in Gameweek 22.
The glaring absences of Toure, Nasri, Costa, and potentially Cesc Fabregas at least give an unpredictable and maverick quality to this traditionally cagey fixture.
Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea
Manchester City 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester City
Manchester City- WWDWDL
Gary Cahill v Sergio Aguero
With Chelsea sporting the second most effective defence in the league – 19 goals conceded – the combination of Cahill and Terry at the heart of it proved the foundation of Chelsea’s early season surge. Some chinks have started to show of late however, and subpar showings from Cahill on two occasions in the past month have resulted in those aformentioned drubbings at the hands of Spurs and Bradford. Freak results perhaps, but the hassle that Harry Kane gave Cahill in that particular fixture would serve as welcome viewing for Sergio Aguero. The Argentine is yet to hit the heights he maintained prior to injury but all the warning signs are there – the three goalless league games since his return have made for his longest dry spell this season. In all consideration, he’s overdue a goal.
Eden Hazard v David Silva
With Toure not yet back from the Africa Cup of Nations and Cesc Fabregas of unconfirmed fitness, the bulk of the creative duties fall on the able shoulders of David Silva and Eden Hazard. Silva will more than likely have Nemanja Matic in his space, to stem his influence where possible, while Hazard will need to strike up a new dynamic with whichever front-man replaces the suspended Costa – whether it be Remy or Drogba.
Comparing the two over the past six Gameweeks, Hazard has actually proved the more creative – two assists and two goals – while the Silva has upped his scoring threat considerably – with four goals . PlayON managers have clearly stumped for Hazard, with 18.1% selecting the Belgian. Wisdom in numbers? Potentially, but it appears that Chelsea’s unbeaten league home record is the defining factor that cannot simply be ignored – Hazard, by all rights, could be key to maintaining that.
The drama addicts out there will be holding out for Lampard driven plotline, but this fixture has all the designs of a tense affair. Fixtures of this magnitude can often turn up a squib and that is reflected in the PlayON member selections. Chelsea have the hoodoo over City in recent domestic meetings, but City are champions for a reason.