Thursday 27 April 2017

Everton vs Chelsea Match Preview (30/04/17): A Point Suits the Blues with Finishing Line in Sight

It’s not often that the team in pole position at the top of the Premier League table would be happy with a point at the side placed seventh, but at this stage of the campaign a stalemate at Everton will suit Chelsea down to the ground.

After the trip to Goodison Park, the Blues have home dates with Middlesbrough, Watford and Sunderland plus an away day at West Brom, so it goes without saying that this is Antonio Conte’s toughest assignment left this term.

Spurs, four points behind us of course, host Arsenal on Sunday; an outfit that is not going to hold back and who have won three on the spin since switching to three at the back. The Lilywhites also have to play Manchester United, Leicester and West Ham as yet, so even if they make ground at the top this week it is still very much advantage Chelsea in the race to the title.

The Blues maintained their cushion at the summit of the table with a 4-2 win over Southampton in midweek. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa showed the wisdom of Conte’s decision to rest them for the FA Cup semi-final on Saturday as they were key figures in this victory.

Hazard opened the scoring for Chelsea early in the piece but it was Costa, much maligned in recent weeks, who roared back to form with an excellent double strike. His first came after Gary Cahill had cancelled Oriel Romeu’s equaliser, while his second was emphatic low finish that confirmed the three points for the Blues. Another Chelsea old boy, Ryan Bertrand, halved the deficit in injury time, but the victors were never in doubt here.

Ignoring the unfortunate defensive stat which has now seen Chelsea concede in each of their last eleven Premier League games, this was another step towards the top flight trophy. Perhaps the biggest obstacle left to overcome will appear on Sunday.

Chelsea Team News

After the rollercoaster ride of the trip to Wembley followed by the win over Southampton 72 hours later, it’s good that the players can enjoy a quieter few days in the build-up to the trip to Merseyside.

Antonio Conte will be delighted that he has a full compliment of players to choose from at this crucial stage of the season too. All signs suggest that the virus that swept through the club last week has now dissipated, with the worst affected Gary Cahill back in the starting line-up on Tuesday.

As mentioned, Hazard and Costa returned also against the Saints, and so the only player to not feature who we might consider a first team regular is Pedro, who ran himself into the ground against Spurs on Saturday and thoroughly deserved his night off against Southampton (he came on as a 77th minute substitute).

With our wide players expected to have their hands full against Everton, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Pedro return head of his compatriot Cesc Fabregas as Conte names his strongest available eleven:

Everton vs Chelsea Head to Head

For a sort while Everton have enjoyed a decent head-to-head return against Chelsea; winning an FA Cup clash last season before going unbeaten in the two league games in 2015/16 (a 3-1 win at home before a 3-3 stalemate at Stamford Bridge). Hopefully, the 5-0 win in Chelsea’s favour back in November will help to redress the balance.

The overall theme is one of Chelsea dominance….but only just. With 69 wins to 54 (and 52 draws), the Blues have, historically, snuck past the Toffees.

Everton have won three of their four most recent meetings with Chelsea at Goodison Park, but as we
have written many times this season this is Chelsea 2.0 under Antonio Conte, and they are an altogether different animal.

How the Match Will Be Won

Establishing a sound defensive base is key when playing Everton away. They have won their last eight consecutive home games, scoring a whopping 29 goals. With Chelsea shipping in each of their last eleven, that has to be a concern.

So hopefully Conte will have worked hard in training on nullifying Everton’s threat; that’s not usually Chelsea’s way, but how well did that tactic work in seeing off Tottenham in the FA Cup!? We sat back and let them have the ball, confident that our quality would shine through in the end.

A similar theme could play out on Sunday, and as long as the Chelsea backline marshals the outstanding Romelu Lukaku effectively we will stand a good chance of taking all three points.

That confidence comes from Everton’s youthful backline, who have kept just one clean sheet in their last six. We all saw how deadly Chelsea were on the counter attack against Spurs, and there’s a chance that the Blues could prosper in such a way again here.

Even so, a point would please Antonio Conte no end.

Monday 24 April 2017

Chelsea vs Southampton Match Preview (25/04/17): Blues to Continue Momentum on Home Soil

Without gloating, there was something extra special about Chelsea’s 4-2 win over Spurs in the FA Cup semi-final; a victory which kept alive our hopes of a historic double this term.

It wasn’t so much the nature of the performance, which was very un-Chelsea like with the boys happy to play on the back foot and counter attack, but the fact that they beat a rampant Tottenham side without the likes of Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa.

Cahill is suffering from gastroenteritis at the moment, and as anybody that has endured that particular ailment can testify it’s a rather nasty business. Whether the England man plays against Southampton on Tuesday night depends on how well he feels on the day, presumably.

Conte deserves credit for his bravery in benching Hazard and Costa. Even in the afterglow of a satisfactory victory it still feels like a bizarre decision, but then Hazard’s replacement, Willian, netted twice before the Belgian himself came off the substitutes bench to fire home the third. Nemanja Matic’s outstanding strike thereafter was merely the icing on the cake.

Hazard himself lauded Conte’s ‘great decision.’ He told the BBC: “The manager told me yesterday,” he said. “You know you have to expect everything in football. When you play football you want to play every game, but I think he did a great choice.

“He put in Willian, Willian scored the two first goals so it's good for us."

How Costa feels about being ‘rested’ is anybody’s guess. The Spaniard has been a little off colour of late, and while Michy Batshuayi offers a great physical presence in attack you suspect that, at this moment in time, he needs to sharpen up his movement in front of goal if he is to be the latest in a long line of prolific Chelsea strikers.

All in all it was a very satisfactory weekend’s work, but the players must hit the ground running immediately with a league outing against Southampton on Tuesday to consider. With just four points the gap to Spurs with six games to go, bagging the three points at the Bridge is a necessity.

Chelsea Team News

Saturday’s victory has given Conte plenty of food for thought as far as his team selection is concerned. Will he go with the same even that started the win over Spurs?

You would have thought not, and Hazard will surely come back into the side given how well he has been playing of late and how well he took the decision to bench him in the first instance.

Every point could count in this Premier League run in, and so there is no room for sentimentality. As such, expect Costa to come back in for Batshuayi; with a disclaimer that the Spaniard must start finding the net on a regular basis again, and let his feet do the talking rather than running his mouth off at the opposition players, the referee and anybody else in earshot for that matter.

Cahill will surely come in if fit, but there is no harm in fielding Nathan Ake at centre back again if not. He looked very assured in tackling Harry Kane and co.

Chelsea vs Southampton Head to Head

Generally, Chelsea have enjoyed the best of things against the Saints. They have won eleven of their last twenty meetings, with five draws and four defeats.

In that timeframe there has been nine meetings at Stamford Bridge, and Chelsea have come away from those with a W4 D3 L2 record.

In the past two years the Blues have just about took the spoils with two wins, a draw and a defeat, and their last encounter on October 30 ended in a 2-0 win for the Blues courtesy of goals from messrs Hazard and Costa.

How the Match Will Be Won

What is interesting about Southampton’s recent form is that they are adequate in dealing with the Premier League’s weaker sides (Watford, Crystal Palace and Swansea) but tend to struggle against the elite (defeats to Manchester City, Tottenham and Everton). So how will Chelsea win this game? By turning up!

Okay, that’s a gross exaggeration. The Saints are a much better side than that suggests, and particularly in midfield with the likes of James Ward-Prowse, Jordie Clasie and Chelsea old boy Oriel Romeu they have industry, tenacity and no shortage of quality.

The key men for Southampton are Nathan Redmond and Dusan Tadic, who will start wide but drift infield as the mood takes. So Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses will need to keep their wits about them and communicate well with Matic and N’Golo Kante in picking those guys up.

The attack minded nature of Tadic and Redmond offers Alonso and Moses an opportunity in attack; they may well spend plenty of time on the front foot and unoccupied. That could lead to some tasty overloads in conjunction with Hazard and Pedro/Willian on either flank against the Saints’ full backs.

Southampton miss Virgil van Dijk massively. The club captain is a fantastic ball playing centre half and a physical presence too; essential in stopping Diego Costa from playing. We’re not convinced that Maya Yoshida and Jack Stephens offer the same level of expertise.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Chelsea vs Tottenham Match Preview (22/04/17): Can the Blues Take One Step Closer to Historic Double?

Team bonding sessions are a great idea for bringing a disparate group of personalities together. A nice meal, a couple of drinks, some laughter and banter….what could possibly go wrong?

What could go wrong is that your players get struck down by a virus, passed around the camp on that fateful Thursday night, just 48 hours before a crunch clash with Manchester United at Old Trafford. Marcos Alonso was so ill that he had to pull out of the side in the warm up, while the likes of Diego Costa and Victor Moses were said to have been struck down with a similar bug but decided to pay nonetheless.

The result, a 0-2 loss, looks awful on paper then, but Manchester United are a decent side that don’t drop many points at Old Trafford. The upshot of Alonso’s absence was that Cesar Azpilicueta had to shift out to the left-wing back position, with Kurt Zouma filling in at centre half. They are both excellent players so that’s not the end of the world, but it’s a reshuffle that Antonio Conte could have done without having to make.

In such a situation a decent start to the game would have been very helpful, but going down after seven minutes to a Marcus Rashford strike. That’s not what the doctor ordered, especially when Ander Herrera handballed in the build up.

Those feelings of frustration were exacerbated when the Spaniard doubled United’s lead after half time, and in truth the Blues rarely threatened to get back into the game. Our lead at the summit of the league table was cut to four points as a consequence.

Perhaps it’s a good thing then that we have a week off from league duty this week, although they don’t come much bigger than this: an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham. The Blues are 90 minutes away from a chance at landing a historic double in Antonio Conte’s first season in charge.

Chelsea Team News

There’s been a sense of radio silence in the press this week regarding the sickness bug that has swept through the club, although the good news is that messrs Alonso, Costa and Moses are back in training; as is Thibaut Courtois, who missed the United game with an ankle injury.

Another player thought to have been struggling with the illness is Gary Cahill, although there is no indication he is in any danger of missing Saturday’s action. The England international has spoken of the positive effect of that loss this week. "That defeat has given us all a kick up the backside,” he told the Evening Standard.

"We know the league is not over, that it will be difficult, but we know we are more than capable of doing it. I certainly think we can win our last six league games.

"We just need to come back from this now. We need to lean on the experience we have in the dressing room and the players that have been through all this before.”

The good news is that there are no further injury worries for Conte, and that all things being equal he should be able to field his preferred starting eleven on Saturday.

Chelsea vs Tottenham Head to Head

What a rich and varied history these two teams have. There have been more than 150 meetings between them, with Chelsea just shading the head-to-heads by 66 wins to 51.

Looking back at history is fun, but the more recent meetings between the two hold most relevance. So let’s instead look at the last ten: here, Chelsea have enjoyed the best of times with four wins, four draws and a pair of defeats.

This season the honours have been shared. At the Bridge it was Chelsea who took the spoils thanks to goals from Pedro and Victor Moses, while at White Hart Lane it was Spurs who prevailed thanks to a brace from Dele Alli.

How the Match Will Be Won

Stop Dele Alli! That’s how Chelsea will win this match. If you cast your minds back to January, you might remember the England man nodding home not once but twice from diagonal balls floated to the back post – Chelsea’s right side, between Victor Moses and Cesar Azpilicueta. It’s not something that has been exposed before or since, but clearly Azpilicueta isn’t a natural centre back and as such not the best in the air. Let’s hope the blue boys can close down the likes of Kyle Walker and Christian Ericsson before they are able to deliver balls into the box.

Another good idea would be to mark Harry Kane rather tightly. He has the ability to score from any distance, so if he does drop off the front it is essential that one of our back three comes out to block any efforts he may have.

Tottenham’s weakness, currently, is at left back, where Ben Davies is deputising for the injured Danny Rose. The jury is still out on the Welshman, and he certainly won’t have played in many games of this magnitude in the past. We wonder if Conte is tempted to switch Hazard to the right hand side to put him one on one with Davies?

Thursday 13 April 2017

Manchester United v Chelsea Match Preview (16/04/17): Can Blues Navigate Route Past Mourinho’s Parked Bus?

Nearly, but not quite. That’s the message to Chelsea fans from Antonio Conte after he saw his side go seven points clear at the summit of the Premier League with as many games left to play.

“There are seven games to go and in England it is not easy, there is a lot of pressure,” the Italian said. “When you have this type of opponent, Tottenham, who is in good form and wants to catch you, it is important to have a good answer.”

His Chelsea charges delivered the very best ‘answer’ imaginable in seeing off a dangerous opponent in Bournemouth last time out. The lead had been cut to four at this point with Spurs defeating Watford earlier in the day, so the pressure was elevated somewhat on the Blues.

But they really couldn’t have responded any better. An Adam Smith own goal got us in front and an Eden Hazard strike doubled the lead just three minutes later; the Blues were in cruise control.
Back came Bournemouth, who hit the post before Josh King’s strike halved the deficit going into the half-time break.

Whatever Conte said to his players during the interval worked. They wrestled back control of the game in the second period, and finally got the reward their endeavour deserved thanks to Marcos Alonso’s sublime free-kick after 68 minutes.

It was a much-needed three points of course, but just as importantly another potentially-dangerous obstacle was overcome.

This being the Premier League, the next challenge is never far away. So on Sunday we travel to Old Trafford to take on Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. That comes with its own sub-plots and narrative, but beyond all that represents another tough assignment against a diligent side lacking in goal-power but not endeavour.

Chelsea Team News

The surprise return of Victor Moses against Bournemouth was a slice of excellent and timely news for Conte. The right wing back has been in fine form this term, and is crucial to the mechanics of this 3-4-3 system. Without him, there isn’t a natural talent on that right-hand side that can offer as much forward motion as the Nigerian.

Moses’ return means that Cesar Azpilicueta can return to the back three, and as a result Chelsea look a far more balanced outfit.

With no new injury worries to concern him, Conte can instead look to the tactical battle ahead with Mourinho as a guide for his team selection. United will play three strong midfielders – the ‘Special One’ is not averse to sticking the pointy elbows of Marouane Fellaini into his side for matches where doggedness is a welcome attribute – and so Chelsea will need to front up in this area. As such, expect Nemanja Matic to start ahead of Cesc Fabregas.

Other than that, it is likely to be business as usual. Pedro will surely continue ahead of Willian – the Spaniard has been in glorious form of late – and all other tenets of this 3-4-3 will remain in place.

Manchester United vs Chelsea Head to Head

 Nobody really knows how much attention the players and coaching staff of the two teams involved pay to head-to-head stats, but if Conte wanted to add a little extra confidence to his players ahead of this clash then he may reveal the fact that Chelsea re unbeaten in 12 games against United.

That run features seven wins and five draws, with both of the most recent meetings going the Blues’ way: 4-0 in the league game back in October, and 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter final back in March.
The consequence of such a run is that Chelsea have no fear of a trip to Old Trafford, and they are unbeaten in four trips to the former fortress.

How the Match Will Be Won

Realistically, this match will play out on one key principle: can Mourinho stop Chelsea? He won’t try and win the game – that’s not his nature in these big matches – as anybody that has witnessed his bus parking antics while in charge of the Red Devils and the Blues previously will testify.

We suspect he will create a midfield barrier to cut out the supply to Chelsea’s front three. The likes of Fellaini, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera will be asked to stay goal-side of Kante and Matic to cut off the supply, with his wide men – probably Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard – tasked with tracking Moses and Alonso’s runs down the flanks.

That will leave Zlatan Ibrahimovic isolated in attack – United’s best hope of scoring will surely come from set pieces, and so perhaps Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, bizarrely, will be key to launching Chelsea’s attacking platform. They can step out with possession and look to draw in a red shirt, which will free up a more advanced player in turn.

Two battles we particularly like, and both should go in Chelsea’s favour, are Eden Hazard up against Matteo Darmian and on the other side Pedro versus Luke Shaw. Are either of United’s full backs good enough – or playing well enough – to keep this in-form pair at bay?

Our answer, biased perhaps but based on logic regardless, is no, and so Chelsea should be able to eventually break down the red wall in front of them. A 1-0 win is a win all the same on this march to the Premier League title.

Thursday 6 April 2017

Bournemouth v Chelsea Match Preview (08/04/17): Cherries Ready to be Popped?

Embed from Getty Images

We must not get carried away of course, but you just feel like the 2-1 win over Manchester City on Wednesday evening was a real watershed moment as the Blues sneak towards the Premier League title.

The omens were strong on Wednesday: Eden Hazard’s opener took a wicked deflection, his second was a fortunate rebound after Willy Caballero saved his spot-kick, and then Vincent Kompany hit the bar in the second period as City pressed hard for an equaliser. The bottom line is that we won, took the three points and maintained that seven point cushion to Spurs in second.

It was a fraught encounter for Chelsea fans though, with their side conceding for the eighth straight game after earlier in the season keeping ten clean sheets in twelve starts. Conte was visibly knackered in his interviews after the game. “My look is tired because I feel like I played it tonight with my players. I suffered with them,” he told the BBC.

“But we must be pleased because we beat a strong team - the best team in the league. I think they have a great coach - the best in the world. To win this type of game at this time of the season is great.”

It wasn’t vintage Chelsea by any means, and even though there are concerns defensively they showed some of the other attributes that a Premier League champion must exhibit: resilience, character and dogged determination. If you can win when not at your best, you’ll always have a chance of being successful.

Conte’s men will need some of those traits this week against Bournemouth, a side who have improved greatly in recent weeks to find themselves on a run of five unbeaten. They have taken points from Old Trafford and Anfield, and could and probably should have ran Southampton off the park in their last home game; hitting the post and missing a penalty on the way to a 0-0 draw.

But you sense the stars are aligning for Chelsea at the moment; this is just one more obstacle for them to overcome.

Chelsea Team News

As expected, Conte opted for a pragmatic approach with his team selection against the Citizens, and brought in an extra defender (Kurt Zouma) while pushing Cesar Azpilicueta forward to wing back.

That could be the template this week too, with reports suggesting that Moses could require minor surgery on his toe injury that would keep him sidelined for another fortnight. His absence is a bit of a headache as Conte doesn’t possess a natural replacement at right-wing back, meaning he has an attacking option (Pedro) and a more defensive one (Azpilicueta). With Bournemouth being in reasonable fettle, it is the more pragmatic approach that suits.

What was interesting about the City game was that Conte hauled off Zouma at half time. He wasn’t playing badly, but the Italian manager just wanted a bit more stability in the middle of the park. So Nemanja Matic came on, Cesc Fabregas drifted forward into the inside right channel and Pedro switched to wing back.

It will be interesting to see how Conte plays it this week with those two options in mind. He has no other injury worries to consider, fortunately.

Bournemouth vs Chelsea Head to Head

Bournemouth made their leap into the upper echelons of English football quite late, and so their first meeting with Chelsea didn’t come until 1988.

All-in-all there have been eight encounters between these two down the years, with the Blues taking the honours in six, the Cherries two and there has yet to be a draw.

Let’s zero in on the three Premier League fixtures which have taken place since December 2015. Chelsea hold a 2-1 head to head lead, although their two victories – 4-1 and 3-0 – have been resounding in nature. What they would give for a repeat on Saturday.

How the Match Will Be Won

A feature of Bournemouth’s season has been goals at both ends of the pitch. Their tally of 44 goals scored is more than any other side outside the top six, while only three teams in the division have shipped more than the Cherries.

So a sort of risk and reward strategy will suit Chelsea well, and really the front three of Hazard, Costa and Pedro should be able to combine to break through this Bournemouth regard. The midfield pairing of Matic and Kante can shut down the middle of the park – there’s always the option of bringing on Fabregas if extra creativity is needed.

Bournemouth’s real attacking spark comes down the flanks, with two of Ryan Fraser, Jordan Ibe and Josh King likely to get the nod here. They possess genuine pace, and while their end product remains in question Alonso and Azpilicueta will need to be on their guard.

With Callum Wilson injured, Benik Afobe will lead the line for the Cherries and while he can be slightly wasteful in front of goal, he did bag in the midweek draw at Liverpool.

But we really like Chelsea here. They should win the battle in the middle of the park and our front three must be excited about taking on one of the Premier League’s most porous defences. Antonio Conte said this week the Blues need 18 more points to secure the title; that is an exaggerated amount, but nonetheless three more to the tally would be welcome here.

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Chelsea v Manchester City Match Preview (05/04/17): Honours Even in Grudge Match Return?

Well, that was unexpected. After Chelsea took a fifth minute lead through Cesc Fabregas on Saturday against Crystal Palace, it’s fair to say that the vast majority of onlookers would have predicted a comfortable home win.

But back came the Eagles, and after Wilfried Zaha’s mazy run and shot equalised, the Ivorian set up Christian Benteke for the cheekiest of finishes to hand the visitors a 2-1 lead after just eleven minutes.

Not to worry: the Blues had 80 minutes to turn the deficit around, and despite huffing and puffing – we fired 24 shots at the Palace goal and won nine corners – the breakthrough simply would not come.

That brought to an end a run of ten straight league wins at Stamford Bridge and an undefeated streak there that dates back to September.

Antonio Conte was typically magnanimous in defeat. “This is football. We must accept this result. "In every game in England, anything can happen. The league is so strong. We faced a team today with strong players. I think they showed they were a good team.

“Now we have to think about the next game.”

That mindset will stand his players in good stead for Wednesday’s huge clash with Manchester City. Victory, or even a point for that matter, will enhance our chances of lifting the Premier League trophy against an outstanding side in Pep Guardiola’s men.

As Conte says, we must accept defeat against Palace gracefully, and not dwell on the minutiae. The players have an immediate opportunity to rectify the situation in midweek, and they look well primed to do exactly that.

Chelsea Team News

The absence of Victor Moses is Chelsea’s only injury concern at the moment, but it has to be said his absence poses quite a quandary for Conte.

The Nigerian suffered a calf strain a few weeks ago, and despite trying to nurse his way through training unfortunately he had to miss the Palace game – where he was sorely missed at both ends of the pitch, and again he looks set to miss out on Wednesday too.

Conte decided to field Pedro as his right wing back against the Eagles, and in truth it didn’t quite work. Palace boasted a lot of pace down that side with Andros Townsend and Jeff Schlupp, and occasionally the Spaniard was found wanting from a defensive perspective.

As such, we’re hoping that the manager shuffles his pack to cater for a similar threat from City in midweek. They will have either Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling down their left, with Gael Clichy or Alexandr Kolarov bombing up in support from left back.

The potential for an overload does not bode well, and so surely the better option would be to play Cesar Azpilicueta at right wing back to deal with that threat first-hand, and then Pedro – a harder worker than Willian – could slot into the right-wing role to track back with Kolarov/Clichy. It’s a more conservative approach, granted, but avoiding defeat on Wednesday is essential.

Conte would be loathe to disrupt his settled back three in normal circumstances, but here it would be justified.

Replacing Azpilicueta at centre half would presumably be Kurt Zouma, who is largely untested this term other than a few FA Cup appearances but who at least would have Gary Cahill and David Luiz alongside him for support.

Chelsea vs Manchester City Head to Head

For the past decade or so this has been a fixture played out between two of the Premier League’s most outstanding sides, and they tend to deliver an excellent spectacle accordingly.

The overall head-to-head, which dates back to 1907, sees Chelsea leading 65-52, with 39 draws.

But we are more interested in those head-to-heads from the past ten years, and these show Chelsea to boast a narrow 11-10 lead, with three draws. Historically, there’s nothing between the two teams.

The last five encounters between the two at the Bridge have yielded a W2 D2 L1 return for the hosts, and of course who can forget their last meeting: Chelsea winning 3-1 at the City of Manchester Stadium which descended into chaos in the last few minutes, with Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho both sent off.

Will there be any lingering bad blood between the two teams to consider?

How the Match Will Be Won

The temptation when playing a team with a galaxy of attacking stars like Manchester City do is to retreat into your shell and let them dictate the game.

Yes, we’re advocating a defence-minded reshuffle that will see the right-hand side strengthened, but we certainly believe that Chelsea’s best chance of winning this game is to attack their opponents. And, being a shrewd operator, we suspect Conte will agree.

Take a look at Manchester City’s away results against some of the division’s stronger sides: 0-4 (Everton), 2-4 (Leicester), 0-2 (Tottenham) and 0-1 (Liverpool). When playing away from home against elite opposition, the Citizens tend to flounder.

Pep Guardiola’s main issues are defensive. Claudio Bravo is simply not justifying his tag as an excellent goalkeeper with both feet and hands, John Stones remains a walking disaster and Bacary Sagna missed the match through injury. Will Guardiola be tempted to play his best defensive midfielder, Fernandinho, as a right back (as he has done already this term) to counter the threat posed by Eden Hazard?

As mentioned, if Chelsea focus on their strengths – which correlate with City’s weaknesses – they will win this game. As we saw in the reverse fixture, the Blues are devastating on the counter attack, and Hazard vs Fernandinho is a battle that most home fans will be licking their lips in anticipation at: the Belgian has the beating of the Brazilian.

We will need discipline at the back of course to counter their threat, but with Azpilicueta (hopefully) at right wing back, extra authority on the flanks will be achieved.

Remember the date: Wednesday April 5. This could be the day that Chelsea sealed their Premier League title.