Venue: Etihad Stadium
Date: 3 December 2016
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Kick off: 12:30
Pep Guardiola vs Antonio Conte; it’s a mouth-watering clash that promises drama of some kind. City find themselves up against the Premier League’s form side on Saturday, and the stakes feel pretty high.
Pep’s men have been on a relatively good run of late. Despite perhaps not blowing teams away, City have been plodding along and picking up points. So, what is there to consider ahead of the visit of the West-Londoners?
A Poor Performance Will Cost Us
It seems odd to be complaining about performances on the back of two tricky away victory, but it’s a necessary whinge. City have played four times since our exhilarating victory against Barcelona, and they’ve not played particularly well in those games. Against Middlesbrough, all was well on the lead up to half-time. Unfortunately, a second half lacking in intensity and desire cost City two points as the Teesiders equalised in injury time. Against Palace, City weren’t bad. On the other hand, they weren’t good. We didn’t create a whole host of chances and in honesty on another day we’d have drawn the game. In Europe, City got the point they needed away at Mönchengladbach, but in all honesty, it was a game lacking in any cutting edge from either side. Concerning. As for Burnley, City got the job done. Was there a rhythm in our style of play though? No. Did we create lots of chances? No. The game against Chelsea could be a reality check. City have been scraping the results of late. A side like Chelsea though, won’t be turning up for a point. They have all of the necessary weapons in their arsenal to cause City lots of problems, and if we don’t buck our ideas up, we’ll leave empty-handed.
Our Best Team
For a short time this season, it looked as though we had a relatively stable lineup. Especially in the attacking positions. Of late though, I’m not sure that Pep knows his best side. A couple of players are lacking a little bit of form, which is making selection harder. Raheem Sterling in particular has fallen off the form wagon in recent weeks, his performance against Burnley left a lot to be desired. The same could be said of Nolito too, whose involvement in goals has dried up a bit of late. An unsteady starting XI has been affected by a returning Yaya Touré too. This obviously isn’t a bad thing, but it does give Pep a dilemma in the middle of the pitch for the time being. The arrival of Gabriel Jesus in the upcoming months will throw another spanner in the works for Pep, though I’m not suggesting for one second that having a range of options to choose from is a bad thing. In terms of consistency though, it’d be nice to see the starters in the side in a bit of form, steady the XI and produce some rhythm. Predicting tomorrow’s XI is easier said than done, but you’d obviously expect all of the big names to be thrust back into the starting lineup. If City are to take all 3 points though, performances are needed by our go-to men. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero – please stand up.
Will Anyone Handle Eden Hazard?
This question will be answered in due course, but it provides food for thought. I’ve droned on all year about City’s lack of top class options at full-back. When you’re about to face one of the best wingers in the league, the question becomes that bit more pressing. It wouldn’t make any sense for Pep to go with 3 at the back against a team with such strong options in the wider areas of the pitch for Chelsea. However, whoever ends up against Hazard is going to have a busy afternoon. Pablo Zabaleta and Bacary Sagna are hardly blessed with the legs anymore, and I have every feeling that Hazard will be licking his lips in anticipation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll run the show. Underestimate Pablo Zabaleta at your peril. Of course, the Argentinian international has lost his way a touch since his dominant form under Roberto Mancini, but Zab still has big-game spirit. We’ll see on Saturday if he can translate that spirit into a performance of the calibre needed to keep Hazard quiet.
If City are to win the game against Chelsea, you’d almost guarantee that Kevin De Bruyne will have something to do with it. On the other side, Nemanja Matić will be doing everything he can to stop that from happening. I’m expecting this to be an interesting duel that De Bruyne will emerge on top from.
I’m expecting a tight game that doesn’t necessarily contain a host of big chances. If the City that demolished Barcelona turn up, we should secure ourselves three points. I’m going to be optimistic and say 2-1 City. KDB to run the show in the second half.
Predict the score:
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