That Chelsea are already five points ahead of defending champions Manchester City at the summit of the Premier League meant that this game needed little more drama to ensure an exciting clash, but, as is often Jose Mourinho’s wont, some incendiary comments going into the match will make for some additional spice between what we believe are the likely line-ups.
Speaking in his obligatory press conference ahead of the fixture, the Chelsea boss was asked for his thoughts on the £50million fine, transfer spending limit and Champions League squad restrictions Manchester City were penalised with for breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. He was typically candid.
“Are the ﬁnes fair? I don’t think so. I think what’s fair is to remove points and remove trophies,” he told reporters.
“If you have plenty of money, it allows you to overcome Financial Fair Play. If after you win titles and are then penalised through ﬁnes, you can continue doing it.
“Taking one or two players off the list for the Champions League means instead of going with 24, you go with 22.
“If they started the next championship with six points (less), or they don’t play in the next Champions League or Europa League, it is more difﬁcult.”
Some may accuse the Stamford Bridge boss of having a short memory, as the lavish spending by the Blues’ owner, Roman Abramovich, is what allowed the Portuguese to assembled such a dominant squad in his first time in charge in England.
On the other side, there is little Manuel Pellgrini will say other than the Etihad Stadium club were punished by UEFA accordingly and “look, I don’t make the rules”.
Either way, this is set to be an almighty clash between a team still trying to find its feet in the new season and another that have hit the ground running, playing some devastating attacking and crowd-pleasing football.
Chelsea did the double over Manchester City in the Premier League last season, so there could well be a sense of needing to make a statement by Pellegrini’s team when they welcome Mourinhio’s men.
Here are the updated predicted starting XIs for what should be a cracking encounter…
Hart; Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Zabaleta; Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Milner, Silva, Navas, Aguero.
Courtois; Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta; Matic, Ramires, Fabregas, Hazard, Willian; Costa.
Mourinho is boosted by the return of Diego Costa to the starting line-up, as the Spain international’s ongoing hamstring issues mean he can only play one game a week. Chelsea looked far less effective with legend Didier Drogba up front instead of Costa in the midweek draw with Schalke 04.
Cesar Azpilicueta is expected to regain his place from Filipe Luis and the hard-running of both Ramires and Willian could be opted for over the more flair options of Oscar and Andre Schurrle.
Meanwhile, Pellegrini is still missing both Stevan Jovetic and Fernando through injury, so he may see this as a prompt to opt for James Milner ahead of the more creative Samir Nasri.
The England international would provide more defensive cover, not to mention covering inside if Yaya Toure looks as heavy-limbed as he did in the last-gasp defeat against Bayern Munich last weekend.
Pablo Zabaleta was suspended for that match and is expected to come back into the starting XI at the expense of summer signing Bacary Sagna.
What do you think of the predicted starting XIs? What changes would you make, if any? Leave a comment below to let us know…