Manchester City are facing another match against a top-six side as they welcome Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium. It is going to be a momentous occasion for the home side as they will get another opportunity to get a victory over the current Premier League champions, which will make their eventual triumph more meaningful when the title is confirmed. Meanwhile, the Blues are facing an uphill battle to finish in the top four, as they have dropped to 5th in the table. Antonio Conte has had a difficult second season in England and another loss this weekend would be a major body blow to his team’s campaign.
In addition to winning the league title, Manchester City will have a number of other objectives on their mind as we enter the final ten matches of the league season. They have a great chance of breaking a number of Premier League records, including highest points total and the highest number of goals scored. Pep Guardiola faced criticism during his first season in England, but he has now adapted to the league and has put together one of the best teams in the history of the competition. It is early days to call this a dynasty, but there is certainly potential for one. They have shown their dominance over Arsenal during the last seven days and there is now an opportunity to do a similar job on Chelsea.
As addressed earlier, Chelsea are outside of the top four and face the possibility of missing out on the Champions League for the second time in three seasons. Last year, they were the best team in the country, but strange decisions made on both incomings and outgoings have seen the squad get weaker. Their loss to Manchester United last weekend was a body blow, as they allowed a lead to slip. That is very unlike an Antonio Conte team and a reaction is required against the league leaders. Although they will go into the match as outsiders, they have the ability to get a result if they approach it in the right way.
Gabriel Jesus is stepping his comeback from injury and he is likely to play a part against Chelsea. Kyle Walker is a doubt after suffering a knock against Arsenal, but Raheem Sterling could be passed fit to feature on Sunday. Fernandinho is likely to miss out, while Benjamin Mendy is a long-term absentee.
Ross Barkley will travel as part of the Chelsea squad and could feature at some point after recovering from his latest knock. However, Antonio Conte will be without David Luiz, Tieumoue Bakayoko and Ethan Ampadu. Olivier Giroud will be pushing for a start after Alvaro Morata failed to trouble the scorers against Manchester United.
Leroy Sane’s goal against Arsenal came after a 19-pass move. There have been seven goals scored in the Premier League with a build-up involving 19 or more passes. Manchester City have been responsible for five of them.
Willian has scored or assisted 19 times for Chelsea across all competitions this season, which is his most influential campaign in a Blue shirt.
The German winger was chosen by Guardiola as a player that he wanted to be a part of his project at Manchester City. He was signed during the Spaniard’s first transfer window in charge for a fee of £37 million. This was considered high at the time, as he was an unproven player and relatively unknown in England. However, as he has developed under the eye of the City boss, he has emerged as one of the best players in the league and the price that was paid now looks a bargain. Despite having eight goals and 11 assists this season, the 22-year-old hasn’t been spoken about in the same terms as Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling or Kevin de Bruyne, yet he is just as important to Manchester City. His goal involvement per minute stands at 86.3 and that underlined just how consistent he has been as the team have romped to a 16 point lead at the top of the table. On Thursday, he was the standout performer as he got a goal and an assist. During the match, he showed his flair when running with the ball as he completed six dribbles. His distribution was effective too, as he completed 94% of his passes. Another excellent performance against a top-six team will see his reputation enhanced further.
Chelsea have been regarded as a one-man team in attack for much of the season and for good reason. They have been reliant on Eden Hazard to influence matches and that has made them predictable for opposition teams. However, the recent form of Willian has changed that and the Brazilian will be one of the main players that Manchester City will be worried about this weekend. Like Sane, he is a dynamic player that can carry the ball to great effect. During his last three matches, he has scored four goals and been the standout player on every occasion. Against Barcelona, he could have scored a hat-trick and ended as the man-of-the-match ahead of the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Conte will be hoping that this is the new normal for Willian and not only a purple patch of form. Manchester City do have defensive problems when they are attacked and if the 29-year-old can drive at them, he can cause problems.
This will be the most intriguing match of the weekend and it is one that Chelsea can’t afford to lose. They were dealt a body blow by Manchester United and another loss to a top-six team will drain confidence in the squad ahead of the run-in. Although finishing in the top four isn’t an achievement for the Blues, failing to qualify for the Champions League would be a huge failure. They can’t afford to lose any ground on the teams above them in the table. That said, they are coming up against the best team in the division away from home who are fresh off two convincing victories against Arsenal. A home win is the most likely result.