In what is undoubtedly the showpiece fixture of the weekend, Chelsea and Manchester City go head-to-head at Stamford Bridge on Saturday evening, in a battle between the former and current Premier League champions.
It’s been a testing few weeks for eccentric Chelsea Manager Maurizio Sarri, who has watched his side win just 1 of their last 4 games in the Premier League.
Manchester City’s ruthlessness and relentlessness during the same period turned their narrow lead over Chelsea into a yawning 10-point chasm ahead of Saturday’s game.
Both Chelsea and City were billed as title challengers in the early throes of the 2018/19 season, however, recent results have caused a dramatic divergence in the clubs’ aspirations.
On Saturday, Chelsea need the points to resist Arsenal’s challenge for 4th place, while City need them to keep a step ahead of Liverpool at the summit of the table.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important individual battles that are could play a key role in deciding the outcome of Chelsea’s showdown with Man City on Saturday.
Don’t forget to read our expert Chelsea vs Manchester City match preview, predictions and betting tips.
Marcos Alonso vs Raheem Sterling
Marcos Alonso might be feeling a little fragile this week after what was arguably his worst performance of the season in Chelsea’s shock 2-1 loss against Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday.
Alonso remains a key component of Maurizio Sarri’s team however, and the Spaniard’s raiding runs down the Chelsea left flank make him an integral part of the Blues’ attacking structure. Only Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud have racked up more assists for Chelsea than Alonso this season.
Defensively, Alonso hasn’t been quite as effective this season however and as intelligent as his positioning and reading of the game are, his lack of pace can often leave him exposed.
On Saturday, Alonso will have to track the rapid movements of Manchester City’s increasingly influential attacker Raheem Sterling. The 23-year old has been in phenomenal form this season, scoring or assisting 14 times in the Premier League in 12 appearances.
N’Golo Kante vs David Silva
N’Golo Kante’s readjusted role in the Chelsea team under Maurizio Sarri has reduced his effectiveness as a defensive force this season.
In 2017/18, Kante averaged 3.3 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game for the Blues from the base of their midfield, however, those figures have reduced to 1.8 and 1.3 respectively this term.
On Saturday, with Manchester City’s David Silva likely to drift into the areas Kante is generally deployed in, the Frenchman will have to do much more defending than usual from his right of centre midfield berth.
That won’t bother Kante in the slightest, though he will have to be at his best to curtail the genius of David Silva. The veteran Spaniard has played more key passes per game on average (2.7) than any of his City teammates this season.
Mateo Kovacic vs Fernandinho
Real Madrid loanee Mateo Kovacic has been in and out of Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea team this season, though the Italian does tend to pick the Croatian in the Blues’ bigger, tougher games.
Kovacic started for Chelsea in each of their Premier League games against Liverpool, Man Utd (read about the Man Utd two-goal phenomenon here) and Tottenham Hotspur earlier in the season.
The 24-year old is adept as carrying the ball forward through the lines from deep positions – a skill that most of his Chelsea midfield counterparts don’t possess.
Kovacic’s marauding runs will almost certainly take him into Fernandinho’s territory. City’s one-man defensive screen is routinely one of his team’s stand-out performers in the most important matches. The Brazilian is the only out-field City player to start every Premier League game this season.
David Luiz vs Gabriel Jesus
With star City centre forward Sergio Aguero set to miss Saturday’s game through injury, 21-year old Gabriel Jesus is one of the candidates to replace the Argentinean at the point of the Citizens’ attack.
His inclusion in the starting XI would set up a fascinating duel between Jesus and his Brazilian international teammate David Luiz.
Luiz and Jesus will be fully aware of each other’s strengths and weakness from sharing a training pitch so often with the Seleção, and both will be keen to use that knowledge to their advantage.
Jesus has only scored once in the Premier League so far this season, and that solitary strike was registered all way back on August 19th.
Check out the best Premier League betting offers ahead of the weekend’s action.
Eden Hazard vs Kyle Walker
Eden Hazard has been delivering jaw-dropping and match-defining moments with equal consistency this season. The Belgian international’s unparalleled ability to dribble through and around defenders makes him one of the Premier League’s most lethal performers.
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker’s searing pace means he can match Hazard stride for stride in a foot race, though like the vast majority of the league’s other full-backs, Walker might struggle to read or contain Hazard’s feints and tricks.
Kyle Walker hasn’t received a single yellow card for City this season and the England international has only had to make 0.3 tackles per game on average.
Hazard on the other hand is the second most fouled player in the league in 2018/19 after Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, so it will be interesting to see whose statistics have changed the most come the final whistle on Saturday.
Chelsea vs Manchester City Betting Offers
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Check out our expert match previews, predictions and betting tips for all the weekend’s Premier League action here.