Big Match Preview: Manchester City vs Chelsea

Manchester City will be looking to move a step closer to the Premier League title when they welcome defending champions Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Premier League
4 March 2018
Gameweek 29
Kick-off: 18H00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Etihad Stadium

Referee: M. Oliver
Assistants: S. Bennett, S. Burt
Fourth official: J. Moss

Head-to-head summary:
Man City 158 53 39 66
Chelsea 158 66 39 53

Previous encounter:
Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City 30/09/17 (Premier League)
Man City goalscorer: K. De Bruyne (67′)

Players to watch:

Such is City’s quality that they offer a threat from just about everywhere on the pitch. On the odd occasion that Sergio Aguero doesn’t score, they can always count on the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva to come to the party. Even Danilo, Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany have chipped in with valuable goals this season.

Willian is in red-hot form for the Blues after netting four goals in his last three matches across all competitions. The Brazilian tormented Barcelona in the Champions League a fortnight ago and hit both posts before giving the west Londoners the lead, only for Lionel Messi to rescue a point for the Catalan giants. Willian also opened the scoring in the 1-1 draw at Manchester United last weekend.

Team form and manager quotes:

City romped to successive 3-0 wins against Arsenal as they bounced back from the shock exit to League One club Wigan in the FA Cup.

The first victory over the Gunners on Sunday in the EFL Cup final brought Pep Guardiola his first silverware as City manager, while Thursday’s triumph took the runaway leaders 16 points clear at the top of the table.

Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in their last five games in the top flight, with four wins and a draw since Liverpool handed them a first league defeat of the campaign in mid-January.

The Spanish coach acknowledged their latest victory keeps the momentum going during a crucial period in their season, despite the threat of weariness setting in.

“That was important because we have tough fixtures coming up, Chelsea, Everton, United and Tottenham. It was important to keep 16 points in front and improve the goal difference,” he said.

“We are out of the FA Cup and we won the League Cup. Now it’s just two competitions and you fight for one of them for 10 months. These are the last steps to be champions, you keep going until the end.

“We have to win five games. We don’t think too much. Now we play Chelsea. Hopefully we have the desire to win, to be the best team in England. We forget that we are tired.”

Chelsea, meanwhile, are finding the going tough in 2018 after registering just two Premier League wins in their last seven encounters.

Antonio Conte’s men halted worrying back-to-back losses against Bournemouth and Watford with a morale-boosting 3-0 victory over West Brom, but lost 2-1 to Manchester United on Sunday to drop out of the top four.

Conte has no intention of settling for a draw this weekend as he attempts to get back among the Champions League places with 10 games left to play.

“When you play against this type of team, who are very strong, you must have a tactical plan in your mind to stop them, otherwise you risk losing in a bad way,” Conte said.

“It’s very difficult but at the same time we have to try to find if there are weaknesses in their team and work on exploiting them. It’s not simple to find them in this team but we have to try to find the best way to play this game against them.

“The most important thing in every game is to have a tactical plan offensively and defensively, you must be focused on your team. It will be very important for us not to lose that balance. In my mind, if we want to win we must have great balance in every moment of the game.”

Team news:

The hosts will assess the fitness of defender Kyle Walker, who took a knock against the Gunners on Thursday.

However, they could welcome back Raheem Sterling after the winger returned to training on Friday. Fernandinho misses out once more with a muscular problem and Fabian Delph completes a three-match ban.

Chelsea must do without defender David Luiz and midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko, although new signing Ross Barkley returns to contention after recovering from a hamstring injury.