Three key battles in Man City v Chelsea
Tom Phillips examines three key battles in Manchester City against Chelsea at The Etihad on Sunday
Sterling v Ivanovic
This will be Raheem Sterling’s first major test since his £49m move to Manchester City this summer. The winger featured regularly during pre-season and in last week’s win against West Brom but still has a long way to go before living up to such a big price tag. The winger’s pace and dribbling ability is admirable and he will cause Branislav Ivanovic problems. On the other hand, Ivanovic is a very difficult defender to play against. The full-back is extremely consistent in his defensive duties and is not afraid to provide support down the wing when Chelsea attack. In which case, Sterling will have to support his defenders rather than aide Wilfried Bony, David Silva and Yaya Toure for goal-scoring chances.
Hazard v Zabaleta
Eden Hazard has been compared to Lionel Messi in recent months following a brilliant title-winning season for the Blues. The winger’s technical ability is up there with the very best and can instantly change the course of a game with his dazzling dribbling skills that has caused problems for many of the Premier League’s defence. Pablo Zabaleta meanwhile will be taking on the challenge to limit the Belgian’s attributes in the match. The full-back’s tenacious style of play will be a match for Hazard’s dribbling and will be making sure that his influence in the game will be extremely limited. Should Zabaleta keep Hazard quiet early on, the winger will have a tough time to influence any sort of chance in the final third.
Fabregas/Matic v Toure/Fernandinho
Whenever two of the “gig four” teams are playing each other, attention is focussed on the midfield. In most of these games, the midfield battle tends to decide the outcome of the game so this area will be a serious battleground in this tie. Cheslea’s Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic have formed a formidable midfield partnership. The Spain international dictates play whilst Matic offers his services in defence. Fabregas made 24 assists last season, highlighting his creativity. Meanwhile, Yaya Toure looks like the player we have seen previously before last season’s drop in form. The Ivorian midfielder was back to his best against West Brom last week and will be hoping to continue his dominant skill against Chelsea, too. Fernandinho, meanwhile, will also be hoping to be able to anchor the midfield and play that Manual Pellegrini strives to see whenever City play. Should the Brazilian be able to link up with Toure like against West Brom and in pre-season, then Fabregas and Matic will have work even harder to win the midfield battle.