Mere days after they see Champions League action, the Premier League holders and title favourites do battle at the Etihad, where Manchester City will have to come armed with a vastly different game plan to that which saw them humbled by Chelsea last season.
The result may only have read 1-0, but in truth anyone who witnessed the match will remember that Chelsea passed up numerous opportunities to bury the hosts deeper.
Given Chelsea’s cheetah-like start to the new league season, compared to City’s mixed bag, this already feels like a must-win game for the champions, who are priced at 13/10 for an extraordinary valuable three points.
Here are three pointers Manuel Pellegrini should be mulling over to avoid a repeat of last season’s chastening defeat, which could spell a title-shaped disaster even at this early stage.
Engine room: Put Fernandinho on Fabregas and match Matic’s physicality with Toure
It’s a major blow for City that they will most likely be without specialist holding midfielder Fernando through injury, though compatriot Fernandinho isn’t a bad deputy and has shown plenty of discipline in the role before.
While it’s unfair to label Chelsea as one-dimensional given their array of attacking talents, it’s clear that if Cesc Fabregas can be shackled, the supply line to Diego Costa can be stemmed.
Nemanja Matic’s towering display was also key to Chelsea’s success last season as Yaya Toure was outmuscled and out thought, so the big Ivorian owes the Serbian some revenge this time.
Sit a little deeper and hit Chelsea on the break
Last season Chelsea were happy to let City come onto them before launching waves of counter attacks once they had snuffed out the danger, without ‘parking the bus’.
The Citizens could do with playing more patiently and must avoid a high line given the devastating movement of Costa to spring offside traps.
As we saw against Liverpool and Arsenal, with the likes of Sergio Aguero and Jesus Navas in tow, not many sides are better equipped than City to hit teams on the counter.
Start Aguero on his lonesome up front in a 4-2-3-1
Back in February Pellegrini employed two strikers, one of which was a not-fully-fit Alvaro Negredo, partnered with Edin Dzeko.
This time aroud Negredo is out of the frame and Stevan Jovetic is likely to be sidelined through injury. Dzeko is a great option off the bench while City could then go pretty much like-for-like with Chelsea’s system and not get overrun in midfield.
Aguero’s pace would cause a huge problem for John Terry’s ageing legs, while Gary Cahill is quick-ish but not in the Argentine’s league.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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