On February 21st, Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge for the fifth round of the FA Cup. While this match up may not be what it would have been six months ago, it’s still a huge tie. The last two Premier League champions will face off will face off in an attempt to help rescue their disappointing seasons.
The majority of Chelsea’s squad is fit, but they are injury riddled in one particular area. The Blues will be without both of their first choice centerbacks after Kurt Zouma torn his ACL and John Terry pulled his hamstring. This has meant that recently Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic have been starting at centerback with Baba Rahman starting at left back.
Manchester City have quite a few injuries to deal with. Samir Nasri, Fabian Delph, and Kevin De Bruyne all have long term injuries that will keep them out for at least another month. Jesus Navas’ prognosis is slightly better, but he will still be out until March. On top of that, Bacary Sagna, Eliquim Mangala, and Wilfried Bony all have injuries that make them doubtful for the game on Sunday.
Chelsea have not beat Manchester City in any of their last four attempts, including a 3-0 loss earlier this season and a 2-0 loss in the 2014 FA Cup. Gus Hiddink has never lost an FA Cup game in either of his two stints as Chelsea manager. The Dutch manager suffered his first defeat in his second stint as Chelsea manager against PSG in the Champions League on Tuesday. Manchester City have lost two matches in a row to title challengers Leicester City and Tottenham. With their title hopes taking some serious damage, they will want to go through in the FA Cup on Sunday and win in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Chelsea’s season has been a season of disappointment. They’re currently languishing down in 12th after winning the title last season, went out in the Capital One Cup to Stoke City, and are 2-1 down going into the second leg against PSG in the Champions League. With all the disappointment for the Blues this season, the one positive has been the play of Willian. The Brazilian has easily been Chelsea’s best player this season. He’s been scoring goals, creating chances, and his overall play has been excellent. His free kicks may be the highlights of his season, but he has been good in all facets of the game. With players like Eden Hazard under performing for Chelsea, Willian has stepped up and he is the player that has the best chance of putting in a match turning performance.
Manchester City: Kelechi Iheanacho
With an important Champions League game on the horizon, Manuel Pellegrini may want to rotate some of his team. He will likely give Kelechi Iheanacho a start, which has been very beneficial in the past. He has scored four goals and had an assist in the first two rounds of the FA Cup and came off the bench to score City’s only goal in their 2-1 loss to Tottenham. Iheanacho has been a shining light for City this season and has proved that he is a legitimate talent coming out of Manchester City’s academy.
With their Champions League game midweek, Manchester City are likely to rotate their team. This could give Chelsea a decent chance to win. With their Champions League hopes in doubt and their Premier League season a complete write off, Chelsea could really use a win in this one.