Coming just few days after both English titans slugged it out in EPL action in the late hours of Thursday, City welcome Graham Potter and Chelsea to the Etihad stadium for an FA Cup clash which promises to live up to its hype.
Manchester City look unstoppable in England at the moment but for The Gunners topping the table and it doesn’t look like their fire would be put out when they take on Graham Potter’s side on Sunday.
The Blues on the other hand are far from where they want to be this season, currently placed tenth on the EPL table after losing 1-0 to the same opponents on Thursday. With 25 points in 17 games, Chelsea are in a Penelope’s web and have a uphill task against the Sky Blues; if they want a trophy this season.
Can The Blues’ defence tame Erling Haaland and the rest of City’s attack?
He’s been ravaging all season, on a one-man rampage in England. And Haaland may be a concern to Graham Potter and his men on Sunday night or maybe not. The 22-year old who has already hit double figures for the blue side of Manchester this season was unable to make an appearance against Chelsea during their EFL cup match but finally played in City’s 1-0 win over the Londoners, a game in which he couldn’t replicate the quintessential form he’s been in all season-long. Now the question remains will Haaland find it difficult to get past Chelsea on Sunday or will he once again be the terrorizing force we’ve seen him be for the greater part of this campaign.
The Blues would need to keep out City’s giant striker if they want to defeat Guardiola’s City and progress to the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Graham Potter’s Stratagem
Since the former Brighton tactician has taken hold of the reins at Stamford Bridge, he’s been somewhat average. Tuchel may have been sacked due to reasons other than club performance but Potter has been far from the manager Chelsea want him to be in terms of grinding results. The Blues currently sit tenth on the league table, nine points short of UCL participation in the 2023-24 season and have the tiniest hopes of landing a silverware at the end of the season.
And Potter has a lot of work on his desk if he’s to keep alive the possibilities of bringing the FA Cup to Stamford bridge. With injury challenges and a much better side, Potter has to really dig deep to find a win here.
Playing three defenders against City may serve as a suicide mission. Potter in the past few games has often resolved to a 3-4-3 formation, playing Cucurella Koulibaly and Chalobah or Koulibaly, Chalobah and Azpilicueta and this hasn’t often worked out well. Three out of the five defeats Potter has conceded as a Chelsea manager have come in games he fielded a 3-4-3 play(Manchester City, Brighton and Newcastle)
Which London club will finish highest in the table?
This kind of set-up enables The Blues to be breached from the wings, especially considering the fact that Manchester City have fast wingers and players generally that can exploit this spaces.
Foden, Mahrez and Cancelo are fast players that can get this kind of job done and Chelsea would definitely not want to set themselves up for failure. A compact four with disciplined wingbacks would be a better option for The Blues to somewhat reduce the ferocity of their opponents’ attack, sucking the pressure off while hoping to catch City on the counter.
Both Christian Pulisic and Raheem Sterling had to come off the pitch in Chelsea’s defeat to Manchester City on Thursday and that will no doubt be a huge headache, a hard blow to recover from when Chelsea visit The Etihad on Sunday evening. Typical of The Blues where goals are usually split amongst almost all players and the most clinical are not always far ahead of the rest of the pack, Raheem Sterling happens to be number one for Chelsea this season in terms of goals scored. The former Manchester City player has scored six times for the Blues, ahead of Kai Havertz’s four.
The English lad is a real asset to Graham Potter’s team and brings a sizeable amount of attacking prowess to the pitch for The Blues. With 39, Sterling ranks for player the highest amounts of shots created for Chelsea this season and his absence would definitely be felt on Sunday.
This adds to the list including Ngolo Kante, Wesley Fofana, Armando Broja, Reece James, Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount.
Apparently, Graham Potter’s men are suffering from deficiencies in the three departments of their squad.
Even though Guardiola’s side are not fantastic at times and manage to miss the mark on some occasions, The Citizens are the favourites going into this one. Ever since the 6ft 5in goal machine has been purchased from Borussia Dortmund, City have become a more formidable, more complete team. Haaland leading the frontline for City is the icing on an already baked delicious cake.
When it comes to setting this guy up, Kevin De Bruyne’s the bomb. With nine assists already in the EPL this season, De Bruyne keeps impressing Guardiola and everyone. He’s the kind of player that knows how to set up those perfect attacking plays and he’s formed an avalanche already with Haaland this season.
For Riyad Mahrez’s opener against Chelsea on Thursday, he didn’t make the assist but was in the mix, playing a crucial role in the build-up to the goal. It’s just hard not to find him cooking up passes and playing at the heart of City’s game. It’s impossible.
It’s amazing that they could deliver without him in the mix in the EFL and it just shows how well rounded a team City is.
All things being equal, we expect Manchester City to go all out for the win on Sunday evening. In the EFL cup victory, Guardiola had a 4-2-3-1 approach to the game with Rico Lewis and Sergio Gomez as wingbacks while Ruben Diaz and Aymeric Laporte held the heart of the defence. Julian Alvarez started upfront as a striker in front of an attacking trio of Palmer, Mahrez and Grealish but last time out Guardiola resorted to a different style of play.
A possible Julian Alvarez start
Plus, there’s even worse news for Chelsea. We may see Julian Alvarez return to the starting XI for City on Sunday. The 22-year old was sensational in the Middle East in November inspiring Argentina to win the World Cup alongside Lionel Messi and has been rewarded with some time off by Pep Guardiola. Alvarez missed few games on the return of club action, including City’s 3-2 win over Liverpool but was on the bench as his side claimed three crucial points against Chelsea on Thursday. And it’s even possible he gets to start against The Blues on Sunday, one news which won’t mean too well for Chelsea, especially considering how relatively short-staffed they are.
Chelsea have lost their past four meetings against Manchester City. The last time Chelsea defeated The Sky Blues was the 1-0 victory in the UCL final two season ago as they lost both league fixtures to their rivals, also conceding a league cup defeat to Guardiola’s side in November days before the World Cup started and a league loss to City on Thursday.
Chelsea have lost four of their past six games in all competitions, winning once and drawing once. Manchester City on the other hand have lost only one in their past eleven fixtures, the lone loss being the 2-1 upset defeat to Brentford which preceded the World cup.
Both have a rather interesting history when it comes to head to head records. The Blues and The Citizens although having met 173 times overall have only faced each other seven times in the history of the FA Cup. Manchester City have prevailed four times while Chelsea have won thrice; including their past two meetings)
Venue and Time:
Sunday, January 8, 16:30 GMT
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images