With the Premier League matches coming thick and fast, Thursday offers a mouth-watering encounter as Chelsea welcome defending champions Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.
Currently fourth in the league table, Chelsea will need to accomplish what Manchester United did before the lockdown pandemic and beat United’s neighbours to assure their chances of a top four finish. Chelsea will have seen the result last night where Manchester United blew away Sheffield United with an impressive 3-0 scoreline. Victory for United reduced the gap from Chelsea to just two points, with the match tonight becoming even more challenging.
Frank Lampard’s Blues were impressive last time out, beating Aston Villa 2-1 and will be hoping to carry that momentum forward. A win would also see them come within just a point of third-placed Leicester City. But, the blues will have to be weary of how good Manchester City have been since the resumption of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s men have registered back to back wins against Arsenal and Burnley with eight goals scored and none conceded. They, however, remain 23 points behind Liverpool where they will be hoping to delay the Merseyside clubs champion’s status for as long as they can with a win against Chelsea.
The reverse fixture at the Etihad saw Manchester City win 2-1 in November. Former Chelsea midfielder, Kevin De Bruyne, and Riyad Mahrez were on target after N’Golo Kante had given Chelsea a deserved lead. A tough fixture for the home side tonight, but, given how important this fixture is, Chelsea manager Lampard should refer to his experienced personal for this one.
Kepa, James, Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante, Pulisic, Abraham, Mount.
Chelsea fans were happy to see Ruben Loftus-Cheek get a run out on the weekend. But, he will start from the bench as Lampard will use his trusted midfield three in Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic and Kante. Their job will be restraining City’s attack and restrict the likes of De Bruyne, Mahrez and David Silva who like to find pockets of space where they can be dangerous to Chelsea’s back four.
After Pulisic’s brief cameo against Villa, he must start this one. He changed the game at Villa Park with his ability on the ball and his intelligence to get in the box from the other flanks crosses which resulted him getting on the score sheet. Callum Hudson-Odoi is fit but not match-fit as Lampard has said in his press conference. This means the Chelsea boss will utilise Mason Mount higher up the pitch to help Tammy Abraham in pressing City’s back line.
Gabriel Jesus, City’s danger man
Everyone will argue that De Bruyne is City’s most dangerous player and I totally agree because he is the best player in the Premier League. However, in this fixture, one player that Chelsea should stop at all costs is Gabriel Jesus. With Sergio Aguero unlikely to feature for the remaining league games following surgery on his knee, Jesus will be the man entrusted to spearhead the Manchester City attack.
The Brazilian has often shown this season that he is ready to step in and fill the void left by the Argentinian striker. Jesus has 18 goals and 10 assists in 41 matches across all competitions this season – impressive numbers for a back-up striker.
But, the worrying part is that the 23-year-old relishes trips to London, having either scored or assisted in seven of his eight starts in the capital. I fully expect him to cause Chelsea’s backline all kinds of problems for the duration of this match. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jesus scoring in this one.
Chelsea 2-2 Manchester City
This will be a tough fixture for Chelsea and I can’t see City not scoring, given how impressive they have been since the season’s resumption. A draw wouldn’t be a bad result for Chelsea because they will still have a three point cushion ahead of Manchester United in the race for a Champions League spot. However, if Chelsea were to win this one, it would be a massive result and it will show Lampard’s capabilities as a manager coming up against one of the best, Pep Guardiola.
Pulisic will once again be one of Chelsea’s goal scorers in this one, alongside Mason Mount, who will be full of confidence from his brilliant performance on the weekend. All in all, let’s not forget that Manchester City is still a fantastic team, even if they aren’t in contention for the Premier League title this season. We will need our back four to be alert for the full 90 minutes, along with Kepa to have one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt if we are to get anything from this blockbuster fixture.