Chelsea will face Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in a crucial Premier League match on Thursday night. Chelsea have been struggling of late, losing three of their last five league matches, and are currently languishing in 10th place with 25 points from 16 matches.
Manchester City, meanwhile, are second with 36 points from 16 matches and will have a chance to close within 5 points of table-toppers Arsenal should they win on Thursday.
Those two teams are going to face each other once again on Sunday in a third-round match of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium.
We now take a look at three key things to watch for in the match:
Manchester City playing with four defensemen
Manchester City played with a back-three in their 3-4-2-1 formation in their 1-1 draw with Everton. Rico Lewis started as the right-back, but effectively shifted inside to play as a holding midfielder.
Pep Guardiola’s side will probably shun that approach against Chelsea, with Kyle Walker playing as the right-back and Joao Cancelo as the left-back in their back-four. Nathan Ake will probably be dropped from the starting 11.
This will also mean that wingers Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez will not have to fall back frequently and will be able to stay up the majority of the time. Cancelo’s crossing ability should also come in handy keeping in mind the hulking presence of Erling Haaland, who has already scored 21 goals in the league this season.
Guardiola making optimum use of resources available
Guardiola was probably a bit too late in making the substitutions against Everton and should not repeat that mistake against Chelsea. With players like Ilkay Gundogan, Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez at his disposal, he can make any side pay through changes made in the second half.
Foden impressed a lot during his brief stint against Everton and might get more game time at Stamford Bridge. Grealish also had a good match against Everton but has a tendency to spend a bit too much time on the ball.
Foden is quicker with his release and can also play crosses well. He can also play in the midfield, which will allow Guardiola to play him there, take off someone like Bernardo Silva and then introduce Alvarez as a substitute on the left flank in his team’s 4-3-3, as the Argentine World Cup winner is comfortable making runs through the inside-left channel.
Chelsea looking to exploit City’s high defensive line
It can be safely assumed Manchester City will dominate possession on Thursday and will look to increase numbers in the opposition half to break their defensive set-up.
As a result, they will have to be wary of the surging runs made by the Chelsea players like Raheem Sterling, who is a former Man City player and has 4 goals and 2 assists in the league this season, and Mason Mount. Chelsea can also summon the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Hakim Ziyech from the bench.
Kai Havertz is not particularly fast with the ball on his feet, but he will make City defenders job tougher by frequently moving to the flanks. As a result, one can assume Cancelo might shift to the midfield at times to play alongside Rodri and help the Spaniard break Chelsea’s moves in the middle third itself.
Still, the trio of Walker, John Stones and Manuel Akanji will have to be prepared to thwart any quick attack launched by Chelsea. City cannot allow any slip-ups, as they did against Everton when the Toffees scored their equalizer through a counter-attack.