Whilst Sunday’s fixture wasn’t quite the return from the international break that many of us had hoped given the results from earlier in the weekend, the away trip to Chelsea still provides a fantastic opportunity to further solidify a top four spot. Perhaps more importantly, should City win the first seeds of doubt may be creep into the heads of the Chelsea players. The flip side of this is that Chelsea will now be hungry to set the record straight after a rather embarrassing loss at home to Crystal Palace has allowed Tottenham to gain ground.
Arsenal provided a stern test though and once again proved that Pep has plenty of work ahead of him to correct the defensive issues that have plagued the side all season. We saw the team adopt a deeper block than usual and whilst it blunted Arsenal’s attack for large periods it ultimately cannot legislate for individual errors.
Regarding injuries, the team is very much in the same state as before the Arsenal game. Both Sagna and Zabaleta are doubts, with the latter perhaps looking the most likely considering his second half cameo. It’s unlikely that Sagna will recover enough over the coming day to be a contender for a place in the starting eleven, a place on the bench is the most likely outcome should he be cleared to play.
Fortunately, there was some good news regarding potential injury concerns as Pep stated the decision to remove Sterling was solely tactical. This is great news as Sterling has been fantastic this season and the team often looks bereft of a creative spark without his ability to beat players out wide.
Despite Pep’s unpredictability when it comes to match strategies and player selection, I feel this may be one of the easiest to call. Chelsea haven’t altered anything significantly since the encounter at the Etihad in December, and I believe Pep will return to the same system he employed in that game. Despite it being a 1-3 loss, the team played exceptionally well and should have killed the game off before Chelsea even had thoughts of turning the result around. Given the injury concerns regarding our right-backs I feel that moving to a back three is simply the best course of action anyway as I don’t believe that Jesus Navas has the capacity to play as a full-back and stop Hazard from doing damage.
There could also be a case made for Bravo to start. I haven’t opted for him in my selection and I’m aware this will be an unpopular opinion but there is definitely a case to be made for him being selected over Caballero. His ability to play with the ball at his feet is something that could be vital against Chelsea should they look to try and disrupt the team’s build up. The Arsenal game demonstrated just how poor we are at beating the press without Bravo and due to this I think there’s a decent chance that Pep may restore Bravo to the starting eleven.
Whilst there are risks in essentially playing Chelsea man for man, I believe there was enough merit shown in the previous performance to suggest that Pep will once again return to this approach. He’s not been shy of taking such risks in the past and I’m certain that Wednesday will prove to be no different.
With all that in mind, here’s how I think City will line up: