Moneybags Manchester City, on the back of two consecutive 2 – 0 victories, travel to poverty-stricken Chelsea, who are experiencing an upturn in fortunes under the guidance of interim manager Guus Hiddink. The Russia boss took over recently at Chelski following the sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari and has overseen a marked improvement in both results and performances. The London side have a perfect Premier League record since Hiddink was appointed, winning all three of his matches in charge, while City have also started to improve in recent weeks, including a hugely impressive defeat of Aston Villa, although their away form still remains atrocious, with only a solitary victory on the road in the Premier League this season.
The last times these sides met was at the City of Manchester Stadium back in September, when Robinho made his debut and scored, albeit in vain, as Chelsea ran out winners 3 – 1. Since then, Chelsea have been chasing Man United at the top of the table, and now trail the team from Singapore by seven points. Last season, when City visited Stamford Bridge, they were taught a footballing lesson as the home side notched six goals to record a humiliating loss for Sven Goran Erikkson’s team. Chelsea are unbeaten in their last eight matches against City and have astonishingly won the last seven meetings between the sides. This game involving the two richest teams in the league should prove a fascinating encounter, one which Chelsea will expect, and strive, to win.
Bridge – Then and now
Blues boss Mark Hughes faces a number of selection dilemmas, as the longevity of the season starts to take its toll on his players. Both ‘Nifty Nige’ de Jong and Vincent Kompany are out with knee and toe injuries respectively, thus leaving City will problems in midfield as they try to contain a rampant Chelsea side. Pablo Zabaleta is expected to continue in his midfield role, where he will, in all probability, be joined by the attack-minded Elano, as City push for a rare away victory. Felipe ‘the Son of Mrs Jarse, Hugh’ will hope to fend off the challenge of Ched Evans for a starting berth, while Valeri Bojinov will return to the bench.
City possess two players formerly of Chelsea, namely Wayne ‘Stamford’ Bridge and Shaun Wright Phillips, whilst the home side will call upon the mercurial services of Nicolas Anelka, once of City. SWP played 82 times for Chelski in the league, scoring four goals in that period, whilst full-back Bridge appeared 87 times in a seven year period. For City, the jet-heeled Frenchman scored 38 times in 89 matches, including a couple in the Manchester derby.
The home side have a plethora of talent available to them, including England captain John Terry and key midfielder Frank Lampard. In Didier Drogba, they possess possibly the best lone front-man in the world, capable of causing many problems for any defence. Ghanaian international midfielder Michael Essien returned last week following a long spell on the sidelines with an injury, and he is one player whom I would dearly like to sign for my beloved Blues.
Anelka – Then and now
My Team (4-3-3)
Richards Dunne Onuoha Bridge
Subs: Hart, Logan, Garrido, Robinho, Clayton, Caicedo, Bojinov
SWP – Then, then and now
Ashley Cole ‘v’ Shaun Wright-Phillips
These two would have played against each other numerous times in training so anything they do will be familiar. SWP has been in scintillating form recently and needs to continue that form if City are to attain anything from this game. Cole has been in the news for the wrong reasons in the past weeks, having being arrested on account of being drunk and disorderly, but on his day, he is arguably the best left-back in the league.
Frank Lampard ‘v’ Pablo Zabaleta
The Argentinean will be forced into a midfield role in the absence of Kompany and de Jong, and he will come up against ‘Fat Frank’, who is to Chelsea what Steven Gerrard is to Liverpool. The England international runs the midfield for the Londoners and he always seems to pop up with valuable and match-winning goals.
Didier Drogba ‘v’ Richard Dunne and Nedum Onuoha
The City defence will have to be on top form to contain Drogba, whose strength and power are second to none. The Ivorian has happy memories of City, having scored in five of the past six meetings between the sides, so Dunne and Onuoha will definitely have their work cut out.
Verdict: Chelsea 2 – 0 Man City
Yet another away defeat for City as they are overpowered by Chelsea’s football, with goals to be scored by Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
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