The last Manchester City match before the international break is a cracker, as the Blues travel to Stamford Bridge for a meeting with the other Blues that are title favorites: reigning Premier League champions Chelsea. Along with Manchester United (unfortunately), the two Blues will certainly fight for the title all year, and Saturday’s meeting could have a major impact later in the season.
For Antonio Conte’s men, beating City is the perfect way to show that last season’s amazing run to the title wasn’t just due to having no European football. Chelsea will face City just three days after playing an ultra-tough match away from home against Atlético Madrid, and if they’re able to get a win against City despite the short turnaround from a really tough European assignment, they’ll prove their worth to the world.
For Pep Guardiola and his side, this is about making a statement and proving once in for all that City can win the big games. All of the incredible attacking prowess of the side has been praised by fans and pundits, but they also point out that the City defense is a cause for concern, and only a game against a really good team will prove that the Blues can hold their own defensively.
There aren’t many teams in the world who attack or defend better than Chelsea right now, and winning this one will finally begin to validate City’s title credentials in the eyes of the skeptics. This is a huge game, and it promises to be amazing.
MATCH INFO, TV/STREAMING
Date/Time: Saturday, September 30, 2017, 5:30pm (UK & Nigeria), 12:30pm ET, 9:30am PT (USA), 10pm IST (India)
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London, England
Television: BT Sport 1 (UK), NBCSN (USA), SuperSport 3 (Nigeria), Sportsnet One (Canada), Star Sports Select 1 (India)
(Listings via LiveSoccerTV)
When it rains, it pours, and Pep Guardiola lost two of his most important players in just one day: on Thursday we learned that Benjamin Mendy ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and the surgery along with recovery will keep him out until the end of April. A few hours later Sergio Agüero fractured one of his ribs in a car accident in the Netherlands, and he’ll be out for the next four weeks.
Mendy and Agüero were integral parts of Pep’s system and not having them in the biggest match of the season so far is a real problem. There are very good replacements in Danilo and Gabriel Jesus for this match, though, so City will be strong enough to face Chelsea even with two of their best players missing.
The question is whether Pep will stick with the 4-3-3 formation or use the 3-5-2 that we saw in the first few weeks of the season, but given that the three at the back system was Pep’s way of fitting Agüero and Jesus together, it’s hard to see him use it with only one of them available. Leroy Sané could theoretically Agüero’s replacement as Jesus’ partner, but Leroy’s real impact comes from the wing.
If the 4-3-3 is indeed Pep’s choice, we’ll see a front three that played very little time together but brought a lot of success and excitement to the team: Sané, Sterling and Jesus. They have the pace to run at Chelsea’s back three and cause them problems all game, and they also work hard enough to help the rest of the team when City have to defend.
Manchester City (4-3-3)
Éderson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Jesus, Sané
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kanté, Bakayoko, Alonso; Pedro, Morata, Hazard
You know what? I’m feeling good about this despite all of our problems: 2-1 City.