Chelsea vs Man City Preview: Title Chasers Pursue Big Early Blow

This game is nothing short of a mammoth title clash just six games into the new season. Though this will not be decisive in the title race so early on, it is a pivotal game. It gives both teams the chance at an early blow for their opponent. For Chelsea, a win means a six-point gap to City after six games having played four of the ‘Big Six’ in the first six games, three away from home. For City, it’s the chance to reel Chelsea in and usurp a small early advantage, reasserting their dominance and proving their championship pedigree. This clash is as big as it gets. Margins will be fine; the quality will be unparalleled, and the victor will be handsomely rewarded. It’s huge; it’s Chelsea vs Man City.

Heavyweight Clash: Chelsea tackle Man City as both sides look to strike a crucial early blow. Credit | Michael Regan/The FA/Getty Images

Chelsea vs Man City: The Battle of the Blues

The Blues go into the game with a favourable recent record against the Cityzens. They have won the last three iterations of Chelsea vs Man City in the FA Cup, Premier League and, famously, the Champions League Final. City have won three of their last six games at Stamford Bridge, though, and will be eager to right the wrong of that European Cup match.

Chelsea Recent League Form – WWDWW

Man City Recent League Form – LWWWD

Both teams go into this game in very good form. Though City have one blemish in the form of a defeat away to Spurs on the opening day, they have been virtually imperious since that game. They blew Norwich, Arsenal and RB Leipzig away scoring a combined 16 goals in those games. Though Southampton managed to frustrate them in their last match, the Sky Blues have an attack that is fluid, fierce and full of goals. Though some murmurings of frustration have come out of the club in the wake of being unable to sign a striker in the transfer market, the team is still very much one of champion pedigree.

From a Chelsea perspective, the Blues sit joint top of the league with Liverpool. Twelve goals scored, one conceded, four wins, one draw and three away games against Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs without defeat make for a mightily impressive start. At times Tuchel’s team have looked dogged, determined, and clinical when it matters without being spectacular. What they have done, though, is get important results when necessary.

Given that none of the last twelve Chelsea vs Man City ties ended in draws (Chelsea have five wins, City seven), this is a match whose margins are fine and where it is very much ‘winner takes all.’

Tuchel vs Guardiola: Part Four

For the neutral, a fascinating subtext for Chelsea vs Man City is that it pits the German against the Catalan for the fourth time in the last eight months. In the previous three games, Tuchel registered three wins. Much was made of Guardiola’s tinkering in the Champions League Final and that was blamed for City’s defeat. The most intriguing aspect from a tactical point of view was the length Guardiola went to to try and combat Tuchel’s formation and tactical plan.

As Chelsea play such a heavily structured formation with a back three and two holding midfielders, it makes them hard to break down. Guardiola tried matching it up with two holding midfielders in the first of the last three games and lost. He then tried one holding midfielder and two attacking midfielders and it didn’t work. Then, in the Champions League Final, he played three attacking midfielders to try and overrun the midfield and, intriguingly, it fell short.

The chasm in quality between the two teams is non-existent. But what will be the most interesting aspect in this match, tactically speaking, is how Guardiola will use the data from Chelsea’s games against Aston Villa and Tottenham to his advantage. Though the Blues won both games 3-0, it was notable for large periods how the Villa and Spurs midfielders were able to bypass Chelsea’s midfield block with quick, intricate passing and intelligent movement.

Guardiola and City are the best team in Europe at quick, intricate passing and intelligent movement, so the warning for Chelsea and Tuchel is there.

This is a meeting of two of the finest managerial minds in the game today and, without a doubt, the tactical battle will be thoroughly engrossing throughout the 90 minutes.

Chelsea vs Man City: Team News

Chelsea

Going into Chelsea vs Man City, Tuchel reported encouraging news regarding the fitness of number one goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. There was less encouragement with respect to the fitness of Christian Pulisic, who is still battling back from an injury picked up in the last international break. The same can be said for Mason Mount who picked up a knock during the recent cup match and will not make the game.

Chelsea vs Man City - Chelsea Predited XI (3-5-2): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kanté, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Lukaku, Werner.
Chelsea vs Man City – Chelsea Predited XI (3-5-2): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kanté, Jorginho, Kovacic, Alonso; Lukaku, Werner.

These players missing out – Mount in particular – bring a curious selection dilemma for Tuchel. All three of Jorginho, N’Golo Kanté and Mateo Kovacic are in superb form and may form a midfield three that finished the win away to Spurs, giving City something to think about. In defense, Tuchel will welcome Reece James back from suspension and likely pick him to play right wingback with Alonso in tremendous form to play on the left. A back three of Antonio Rudiger, Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta should prove the easiest selection for Tuchel as will Lukaku upfront. Timo Werner scoring in midweek will give his compatriot food for thought. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him support Lukaku upfront in a dynamic front two that should cause City duo Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias a headache or two.

Whichever way Tuchel goes, it will be imperative to him to see his side do what they do best: give very little away and fight tooth and nail for the three points.

Man City

The story of the miraculous recovery has struck again! Ahead of Chelsea vs Man City, City were purportedly to be without John Stones, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri. However, midweek exploits aside, the trio trained in preparation for the trip to Stamford Bridge. Guardiola will, however, be without midfield lynchpin Ilkay Gundogan and left back Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Chelsea vs Man City - Man City Predited XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Grealish; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.
Chelsea vs Man City – Man City Predited XI (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Grealish; Mahrez, Jesus, Sterling.

With an embarrassment of riches to choose from, the biggest selection dilemma for Guardiola will be what to do in midfield. The expectation is that he will not repeat the mistakes of the Champions League Final and will trust either Rodri or Fernandinho at the base of midfield. Phil Foden is another to consider but is still working his way back to full fitness.  Looking to be on his way out, Bernardo Silva has enjoyed a reprieve but may miss out if his manager drops summer signing Jack Grealish into midfield. Partnering Grealish and Rodri should be the evergreen Kevin De Bruyne who has been a big miss in many games for City so far this season.

Defensively, the quartet of Cancelo, Laporte, Dias and Walker have looked resolute and untroubled in their first few games. The attack is area of concern for the former Barcelona manager. With many options to choose from, the choice may come down to experience and dynamism over youthful exuberance. The expectation, therefore, is for a trio of Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Riyad Mahrez to start upfront.

No Matter the Result, No One Should Be Left Feeling Blue

Titles are rarely won and lost after six games. Though they lost against Spurs in the opening encounter, City have the chance to reel Chelsea in now. Such a situation proves that suffering a setback early on is rarely devastating. For Chelsea, the expectation given the past three games against this opponent, the tag of European champions, the start to the season and the level of investment will be there.

Similarly, many neutrals will expect City to give a better account of themselves than they have in the last three matches against Chelsea. This match offers a clean slate for the Cityzens, a chance to reassert their domestic dominance. A win here would certainly go a long way to quieting the noise that a pretender to their crown makes.

It’s an enthralling match in prospect that pits two of the best managers in the world, some of the best players in the world and two clubs of tremendous European pedigree against each other. The margins are fine, the points are there for the taking and it is all to play for. It’s Chelsea vs Man City and it looks to be brilliant.

Written and Edited by Dan Hill (@idanknow05)

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