There's no shying away from it. Even at this early stage of the season, Chelsea versus Manchester City this weekend is massive.

Both managers will know the importance of not dropping points to one another. With Manchester United making a relatively slow start to the season, - without ruling the defending champions out entirely - the title race is so far focused on Chelsea and City as the two main protagonists with doubts persisting over Arsenal's ability to last the length of a season still lingering.

Let's rewind briefly to the clash between United and Chelsea at Old Trafford earler this season. It was a tight contest, with neither manager willing to be bold and neither team really doing enough from an attacking point of view to justify taking all three points. 0-0 was the only fair scoreline.

This is what Jose Mourinho does best - set his teams up to defend exquisitely in these huge games - and expect the pattern to be similar at Stamford Bridge, even with the Blues at home.

Likely to be missing captain and rock Vincent Kompany, the Citizens will be placing a lot of responsibility at the feet of Joleon Lescott and Matija Nastasic - with new signing Martin Demichelis also sidelined. 

It is a bit of a nightmare scenario for Manuel Pellegrini. He brought in Demichelis from old club Malaga in the knowledge that he was dependable and experienced in big matches such as this.

When Kompany is already missing it usually makes it hard enough for City from a defensive point of view and Lescott will have to be Nastasic's guide.

This is not to disparage the young Serb - he has impressed me hugely in his time so far at the Etihad Stadium - but his youth and naivety mean he will require a helping hand in the most crucial situations.

If this isn't coming from Kompany, it has to from Lescott. Using Javi Garcia as a makeshift centre-back will be close to suicidal given the outstanding form of Oscar and Eden Hazard.

The Blues, meanwhile, will be confident of their own defensive abilities - but there is always that air of uncertainty around David Luiz. It is impossible to know what will happen next with the eccentric Brazilian - part of what makes him so popular, of course, but also part of the reason he frightens and frustrates Chelsea fans, as shown by his horrendous error against Cardiff City.

John Terry will be Mourinho's main man - expect him to command from the back like the born leader he is, and partnering him with either Luiz or Gary Cahill should not frighten anyone of a dark blue persuasion too much.

There will also be an onus on the full-backs to choose their forward runs carefully - focus will fall particularly on Pablo Zabaleta and whichever of Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov is preferred. The left-backs in particular are a little suspect defensively and if Mourinho opts for the wide threat of Andre Schurrle, it could be an testing afternoon for either of them.

It is also entirely possible that Yaya Toure will be dropped deeper to thwart the threat of Chelsea's quite brilliant attacking options.

Nevertheless, with the ball at his feet Toure will still be a force going forward, and Ramires will have to be at his all-action best to stop the Ivorian crashing his way through the Chelsea team.

Expect a tight encounter with little between the two sides. A draw looks the safe bet, with a slight edge given to Chelsea if you were forced to pick between the two.

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Topics:
#Premier League
#Manchester City
#Chelsea
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