3rd place Chelsea will travel to Manchester Sunday to take on 2nd place Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Both teams are coming off decisive 4-0 victories in the FA Cup and will be looking to continue their strong play this weekend.
While the title race is all but sewn up by Manchester United, Sunday’s matchup is still one of significance with the four Champions League spots still up for grabs. City currently owns 53 points, while Chelsea is just behind them at 49 points; however, Tottenham, Arsenal, and Everton are closing fast with 48, 44, and 42 points respectively. Even if the title race is over, both Chelsea and City fans understand the importance of Sunday’s clash. Left on City’s remaining schedule are the likes of Tottenham, Everton, and Manchester United, so while a Champions League spot may look all but earned, The Sky Blues’ recent form and tough schedule makes nothing a given.
Coming into The Etihad Stadium will be an inspired Chelsea team who has faired well in recent weeks and is just starting to get fully healthy again. John Terry put the world on notice last weekend after scoring a magnificent header goal in the 4-0 FA Cup victory over Brentford, and will give a huge lift to a team who’s one question was leadership. With the likes of Demba Ba and David Luiz healthy again as well, Chelsea looks a frightening opponent capable of taking down anyone in their path. Juan Mata seems to have been getting better throughout the season and with Fernando Torres playing well, the Spanish tandem are a threat at any moment.
The first meeting between the two this season ended in a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, but the score was not indicative of the excitement in the match. Sunday’s clash is likely to be even more competitive with more at stake. Roberto Mancini was quoted saying that Manchester City had played the worst match in two years in their last Premiership match against Southampton, so it will be interesting to see how the team responds especially against such a formidable opponent.
On the other side, Rafa Benitez seems to have quieted the doubters with the team’s recent streak and with the majority of his star players healthy, expect a dogfight between these two goliaths of football.
Let’s take a look at some of the key players to watch in this weekend’s match:
The captain is back. After months on the sideline with a knee injury, John Terry has returned to Chelsea’s defense making The Blues that much more formidable. Terry has had a rough year since winning the UEFA Champions League last year with his racism trial, injuries, and having his captaincy of England stripped which lead to his retirement from international play. However, his mental fortitude and resolve has see him return to the pitch with fervor and his presence will not only be a huge lift come this Sunday’s match against City, but also for the rest of the season. Having just begun Europa League play, Terry’s health will be crucial for other players like Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic, and David Luiz, who will be able to rest at opportune times. Watch for Terry to spark a strong defensive performance Sunday.
With the presence of Vincent Kompany yet to be announced for Sunday’s match, Ba could be licking his chops. While City has other strong defenders, no one can replace the leadership and ability of Kompany. Demba Ba with his size, strength, speed, and aerial ability could have a field day if Kompany is unable to go. If Kompany is in the lineup, the matchup between him and Ba will be a fun one to watch. Since transferring from Newcastle in January, Ba has played well for The Blues, but has been unlucky, suffering a broken nose against his former side in a recent match. Ba, alongside a surging Fernando Torres can be deadly inside the box and has the ability to create plays and finish from everywhere. Ba will be key come Sunday.
Having missed several weeks with a calf injury, Vincent Kompany’s presence, if he is available, will be a welcomed one. A big strong leader in the back, Kompany demands respect from opposing strikers and his aerial ability and deceptive pace have been key to City’s success in recent years. A clutch player with the heart of a lion, the Belgian changes matches simply with his presence. City has even been known to play three in the back when Kompany is in the lineup because of his organizational ability and range. Without him in the lineup, City could be in trouble with the attacking power that Chelsea brings. It will be interesting to see whether or not he plays and how much impact he will have after being out for so long. Even if he isn’t fit, his presence will be a boost for a team in need of a Premier League win.