Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Sunday, 20 March
Kick-off: 1600 GMT
At a certain point yesterday, it looked as if this weekend’s results had been kind to us again – until the predictable late winner from ten-man United against Bolton. Still, realistically we’re unlikely to catch them up anyway but a win today would see us up into third, just 4 points off Arsenal and with them looking like they’ll be having their usual end to a season, overtaking them isn’t out of the question.
If I’m honest, I’d probably rather we were playing anyone but City – our last three meetings have all ended in defeat and they’ve become a bit of a pain in our arse since their inheritance. Particularly the Argie midget, who’s had 6 goals in his last 5 Premier League games against us. So, we’ll have to hope Luiz looks after him for us today.
All too aware of our last three meetings (despite jokes to the contrary), ahead of this game Carlo Ancelotti says “I think that all three games we lost on counter-attacks. City will try to do the same now. They are very dangerous on the counter-attack, so we have to avoid this and maintain good balance on the pitch. He’s (Mancini) a very intelligent coach who prepares a tactical game very well. That’s the reason I have difficulty against him. I hope to change that on Sunday. It’s important we win to clarify our position in the table. At the moment, our position is not so clear. After this game, it’ll be clear what we’re going to do in the Premier League.”
Having insisted at the start of the season it’d be us rather his neighbours winning the title this season, Roberto Mancini refuses to admit he was wrong, suggesting “Maybe they could still win it because we have a long way to go. Chelsea had the same problem that we have at this moment. They had four or five important players injured for a long time. This is why their form wasn’t so good. But with the Champions League in the middle, anything can happen.”
Whilst on our previous meeting at Wastelands and today’s game, Mancini says “I hope to win by the same score again but it will be very difficult. At this moment, Chelsea are playing very well. They are in good form and they also had one day’s extra rest because they played in the Champions League on Wednesday. But we want to try because it is an important game for us.”
On the injury front for us, Alex (knee) isn’t quite ready for a starting place and Benayoun (Achilles) remains out although resumed full training this week. Torres, Essien, Malouda and Essien could all start after being benched or rested altogether midweek.
For City, Given (shoulder) is out, Toure is suspended, whilst Zabaleta is on compassionate leave. Johnson has made a quick recovery from a back injury and a despite threats to leave Balotelli out, a hasty apology might be enough to see the stroppy striker get a game.
CHELSEA (from): Cech, Bosingwa, Ferreira, Terry, Luiz, Ivanovic, Zhirkov, Cole, Mikel, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, McEachran, Kalou, Malouda, Anelka, Torres, Drogba, Turnbull.
MAN CITY (from): Hart, Taylor, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Boateng, Boyata, Kolarov, Zabaleta, Wright-Phillips, Barry, De Jong, Vieira, Milner Y Toure, A Johnson, M Johnson, Silva, Dzeko, Tevez, Balotelli, Jo.
City 1-0 Chelsea (25th September 2010)
Chelsea 2-4 City (27th February 2010)
We haven’t won back-to-back league games at home since November and have only won three of our last seven at home in the league. City meanwhile, haven’t won away from home in any competition since Boxing Day and haven’t won back-to-back games in the league so far this year. But before we get too excited by that, we should remember they’ve beaten us in all of our last 3 meetings. And with them beaten in Europe midweek, whether that hinders or inspires them remains to be seen. Not an easy one to call is it?