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Chelsea vs Manchester City Preview: Aguero Missing After Car Crash

Chelsea host top-of-the-league Manchester City on Saturday in the first Premier League heavyweight encounter of the season. The Blues sit three points behind both Manchester clubs in third place but come into the game following an impressive display against Atletico Madrid in midweek.

Sergio Aguero has been ruled out of the evening kickoff after suffering a broken rib as a result of a car crash in Amsterdam. Eden Hazard is expected to make his first league start of the season after his man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday.

Formation

Antonio Conte is likely to stick with a similar formation to that which served him so well against Atletico. Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing football may leave Chelsea packing their midfield, with Hazard and Alvaro Morata together up front. Chelsea deviated from their usual formation, opting for a 3-5-2 during their trip to Spain, with wide men Pedro and Willian dropped to the bench.

Team Selection

David Luiz is still suspended following a red card against Arsenal so capable deputy Andreas Christensen should line up alongside Ceasar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill as a back three. Marcos Alonso should start once again but there could be question marks over the right wing-back position; we could see an impressive Davide Zappacosta come in to give Victor Moses a rest.

Tiemoue Bakayoko showed real steel in the Champions League by protecting his defence and allowing N’Golo Kante to roam – the most crucial combination for Chelsea to nullify City over 90 minutes. Further forward could see some changes to inject fresh energy; Cesc Fabregas added an extra body to the midfield, but we could well see a change here with the addition of Willian.

The Diego Costa hangover was well and truly shaken off thanks to Morata and Hazard combining fluidly last time out, so they have to start.

Predicted Starting XI

Courtois (GK)

Moses

Christensen

Cahill (c)

Azpilicueta

Alonso

Kante

Bakayoko

Hazard

Willian

Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

Man City will want to dominate possession as they visit the champions and Conte might well allow them to have the ball and soak up the pressure. Manchester City have struggled in past years as soon as Aguero is not on the pitch, so he will be a huge loss. Kante and Bakayoko will be looking to set their steely base in midfield. If Chelsea can stifle City – and that’s a big if – Hazard and Morata could be deadly on the counter. Chelsea might look to pack the midfield once again and it will be interesting to see if Pep has a plan B to outwit the wily Chelsea manager.

Match Prediction

With all the talk of the Manchester clubs for the title, Chelsea will want to show that they are still champions – expect a robust display. Both teams have goals from all over the pitch so defensive nouse could be the order of the day, which the Blues have in spades. Could we see one of those brave 1-0 wins for the home team?

Chelsea vs Arsenal Preview: Toughest Test of the Season So Far

Premier League action returns to Stamford Bridge tomorrow, with Chelsea taking on arch-rivals Arsenal in what promises to be one of the games of the season so far. The Blues look to have shaken off their early season worries – winning three tough-looking Premier League games on the bounce whilst Arsenal have struggled for consistency and would dearly love to put a marker down here.

Formation

Nothing seems to sway Antonio Conte away from his 3-4-3 formation – which is now being replicated by most of the teams in the Premier League. Having three at the back centrally seems to give the Blues plenty of security, both in and out of possession and as a result, the creative influences on the team (Hazard, Fabregas etc.) seem to benefit from being awarded more space in the middle of the field.

Team Selection

Conte gave a Champions League start to Thibaut Courtois, which is perhaps an indication of the importance he’s placing on European competition this season – and the Belgian will start again here.

Gary Cahill impressed in the Champions League in midweek and should return following a domestic suspension, whilst David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta should also feature in the heart of the defence.

Marcos Alonso has been in fine form and will retain his place at left wing-back but Conte has a decision to make at right wing-back. Victor Moses was the unsung hero of last year’s title-winning campaign but Davide Zappacosta has arrived from Torino and looks to be a serious contender for this position and impressed greatly against FK Qarabag on Tuesday evening.

N’Golo Kante will be keeping things ticking in midfield, whether that’s alongside Cesc Fabregas or Tiemoue Bakayoko is another call Conte will have to make with Danny Drinkwater still out.

Alvaro Morata has scored in each of his Premier League games at Stamford Bridge and will lead the line. Eden Hazard is now fit after recovering from his ankle injury and in contention with Willian and Pedro also vying for the two places flanking Morata up front.

Predicted Starting XI 

Courtois (GK)

Moses

Cahill

Luiz

Azpilicueta

Alonso

Kante

Bakayoko

Hazard

Willian

Morata

Where the Game Will Be Won or Lost

Both teams come into this game on the back of European wins and will be eager to make a winning return to domestic football.

Chelsea have a well-oiled formation and tactical setup that will allow them to control the game from the back and look to play balls in between the lines into the likes of Hazard and Morata. The width provided by the wing-backs could also be a determining factor in the game as they are integral to the way the Blues operate.

Arsenal are blessed with quality all over the pitch but have seemed to lack conviction this term – particularly away from home. Arsene Wenger’s men have lost both of their Premier League games on their travels this term and have looked vulnerable defensively – something Chelsea will be looking to exploit. Alexis Sanchez’s return could give the Gunners a huge boost going into this one, though.

N’Golo Kante is integral to Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation.

Match Prediction

Both teams have lofty ambitions this term and whilst Chelsea seem to look stronger every week, Arsenal’s problems seem to be mounting up and the Blues should have too much for the Gunners here.

Chelsea to win 2-0.

Chelsea’s Early Form Continues to Defy Critics

Despite what looked to be a precarious situation for Antonio Conte and the West London Blues, Chelsea have grown into their early season form over the opening five games of the domestic and European season.

The cracks probed after an opening day loss to Burnley left the Premier League champions, who were so imperious last term, feeling vulnerable.

Discord with their powerful goalscorer Diego Costa, defensive rock Gary Cahill dismissed to the stands and electric talisman Eden Hazard struggling for fitness all seemed to be pointing to a long season.

Things were also amiss in the transfer market, as strangely, a side who have won two out of the last three league titles, back in with the European elite, could not get their transfer targets over the line.

But underestimate the Italian manager at your peril. He is not a man to get on the wrong side of, as even the villain Costa has found out.

With much of the title talk focused on the Manchester clubs, as United are finally back to fighting form and City off to their usual silky August performances, Conte’s men have flown under the radar, producing hard-fought wins over Spurs, Everton and Leicester. Not straightforward opposition but dealt with firmly to move up to third place in a classic granite-like Chelsea style.

Premier League Table

What’s changing?

Largely, the squad remains unchanged from the championship winning side, with any new faces slotting in comfortably. Alvaro Moratta looks confident and assured leading the line, providing some power with a deft touch. Fabregas looks back to some more regular form after and in-out season last year and Willian is a match winner that can cover for Hazard. You have to think he will be disappointed if he drops to the bench upon the Belgian’s return.

Defensive switches have been adept after the suspension of Gary Cahill, and Davide Zappacosta sparkled on full debut, helping secure a 6-0 win over Qarabag.

The loss of Nemanja Matic continues as an area that needs finessing over the coming weeks, and a large piece of the jigsaw could be slotting Danny Drinkwater’s ball retention back in with N’Golo Kante’s Duracell energy.

Not too many are tipping the Premier League trophy to remain at Stamford Bridge for another year now that the extra stress of Champions League football is on the horizon. Squad depth is still to be fully tested but the form is building slowly. A test again Arsenal is always a good measure of confidence and crunch encounters with Atletico Madrid and Roma will really provide the evidence of how Chelsea shape up for the bulk of the season.