Inside the Opposition

Inside the Opposition: Man City vs. Chelsea (Predicted XI, Danger Man, Opposition View)

It was Sarri’s Chelsea who brought to an end Man City’s long unbeaten run in the league in December and Guardiola has a chance to get some revenge and bring City three points this Sunday at the Etihad.

City and Chelsea are meeting in the Carabao Cup final soon but this weekend’s match could be just as important because of what it means to the title race.

So let’s have a look at Chelsea!

PREDICTED XI & DANGER MAN

Chelsea’s form has been super wobbly lately — one day they’re losing 4-0 to Bournemouth then another destroying Huddersfield. Sarri said himself he’s having problems motivating his players but they go into the City game on the back of a 5-0 win over Huddersfield so Sarri may stick with the guys in form.

In net will be the world’s most expensive goalie, Kepa Arrizabalaga. Fellow Spain international Cesar Azpilicueta will begin at right-back and on the left it’ll be Marcos Alonso who was brought back in for Emerson Palmieri last weekend. Despite Andreas Christensen starting their last match, Antonio Rudiger seems likely to return and partner David Luiz in the center of Chelsea’s defense.

City missed out on Jorginho to Chelsea and there don’t seem to be many regrets about it. I’d say wait until the second season to judge him but he’s found English football more challenging than Italy. He’ll start because he’s Sarri’s main midfield guy. N’Golo Kante will also 100% start and is one of the best midfielders to try and stop City’s waves of attack. The third midfielder is tougher but I think it’ll be the technical skills of Mateo Kovacic over other options such as Barkley.

I can only see one possible front three combo for Chelsea and that will be the main man Eden Hazard, Willian and new signing Gonzalo Higuain who scored twice against Huddersfield. Chelsea fans have been desperate for a goal scoring striker and finally have him.

And who else can our Danger Man be except Eden Hazard? He’s Chelsea’s best player by a long shot and if he’s headed to Madrid in the summer they have a big job of replacing him. Hazard has 10 assists and 12 goals in the league this season and City have to watch him closely on Sunday.

OPPOSITION VIEW

To get a Chelsea fan view I caught up with Jake Cohen, a sports lawyer who has written for The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, The Independent and others.

Chelsea are blowing hot and cold right now and their form is inconsistent. What do you put this down to? Is there a mentality problem in Sarri’s squad?

I’m genuinely not sure how the squad manages to come back to beat Spurs in the second leg of the League Cup semis, only to lose 4-0 to Bournemouth just six days later!

This has been a regular occurrence this season, and while it’s clearly a very talented team, the consistency just hasn’t been there. I don’t think it’s a mentality issue, as the individuals in squad are consummate professionals, almost to a man.

That said, there hasn’t been anyone who has been able to come in over the past few seasons and fill John Terry’s boots in terms of leadership.

Sarri seems to have the Chelsea fan base divided a little over half way into his first season. What are your thoughts? Is he the right guy and just needs time to implement ‘Sarriball’ or have Chelsea made a mistake?

I’m not going to pretend that I know more than the decision-makers at Chelsea or Maurizio Sarri himself.

I will say that Chelsea have traditionally set extremely high expectations for their managers (some might say too high).

Whoever takes on the job also takes on the expectations to win, and win immediately. Even then, that may not be enough to stick around.

Eden Hazard could join Real Madrid in the summer, it’s being said. How big of a loss for Chelsea would this be?

Hazard is one of the best players in the world, is having a great season, and when he’s in one of his brilliant stretches, he’s unplayable and so fun to watch in person.

There are just a handful of genuine difference-makers in football (Aguero would be another), and if you have one of these difference-makers, it’s so important to do whatever you can to keep him.

Equally, if you have an opportunity to go out and get one of these players, you should be willing to devote a disproportionately large amount of your player costs budget towards acquiring him.

Because there are so few of these players out there, clubs are generally unwilling to part with them. So, it would obviously be a significant blow if Chelsea were to lose Eden Hazard, as he’ll be extremely difficult to replace.

Hazard has worked very hard to put himself in a position where he’s able to exert a significant amount of control over his future. While I hope he stays at Chelsea, I certainly respect his right to do whatever he thinks is best best for himself, his career, and his family.

In the end, no player is bigger than the club and I fully expect Chelsea to keep winning trophies with or without any one player – hopefully we’ll get the next one in a few weeks, though I suspect City might have something to say about that!

Predictions for Sunday’s game?

I usually have a very blue-tinted outlook, and genuinely believe Chelsea will go out and win 3-0 every single week.

That said, the very first time I was not 100% confident Chelsea would win was right around this time last year.

We had just gone up to Manchester the week before and lost to United. I knew on the train back to London that it wasn’t going to get any better against City the following weekend. Of course, we lost 1-0.

I’m hoping for a good result, but I definitely don’t think we’ll win 3-0.

I’m also looking forward to the women’s match between Chelsea and City, where hopefully Chelsea win in the league after getting knocked out of the FA Cup by City on Wednesday.

To Top