The last time both the sides met they were without their number nine. However, this time they will be locking horns with strikers on excellent form.
The last time the sides met, it was a delight to watch. Both the teams were played without a striker. However, it was Chelsea who had the last laugh, as they ended Manchester City’s winning streak. Goals from N’Golo Kante and David Luiz assured that City’s cloak of invincibility is torn down. However two months later, things have changed. Both the teams will be meeting with both the strikers on goal scoring form. For Manchester City it’s a match in which a victory will make them go on top of Liverpool in the title race. For Chelsea it’s a game that will make keep their hopes of top 4 alive. Three points are needed by both the teams and here are the talking points from the game.
Predicting a Pep Guardiola starting XI is one of the hardest jobs in Manchester. The Catalan likes to keep everyone guessing. He’s usually successful, regularly throwing a surprise selection or tactical tinker into his side. He did it a week ago against Arsenal when the City team sheet had those in the press box scratching their heads at how the Blues might line up, only to see Fernandinho drop in as a central defender before moving into midfield at times. Given Bernardo Silva has moved to the wing recently and Aymeric Laporte has been spotted at left-back it would be no shock to see another surprise, especially given Maurizio Sarri is in the opposition dugout.
Teams have found that stopping Jorginho tends to stop Chelsea recently and it will be interesting to see if Guardiola follows the template set by Arsenal and Bournemouth, who both played a diamond to disrupt the former Napoli man’s play, or whether he sticks to a 4-3-3.
Title race pressure
It’s back on City this weekend. The Blues have done their job so far this week, beating Arsenal last Sunday and Everton in midweek to turn up the heat at Anfield. But after successive draws Liverpool were back to winning ways against Bournemouth on Saturday. Now it’s City time to find a response and go back to the top of the league. If Guardiola’s side can find three points then it will give Liverpool two weeks to stew over the importance of their game in hand, which comes two weeks today against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Guardiola v Sarri
There’s always a sub-plot when these two managers face each other after Guardiola’s glowing praise for Sarri’s Napoli side last season. On that occasion they produced two wonderfully watchable games in the Champions League group stage, with City winning both. There was revenge for Sarri in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge in December. But two months later the question is now how long will Sarri-ball last in the Premier League, rather than what will it achieve.
The Italian has questioned the motivation of his own players recently. And they have produced some rotten performances on the road in defeat to Arsenal and Bournemouth.
Chelsea look vulnerable to a side such as City at the moment. But Guardiola will know better than to underestimate a Sarri side.