FA Cup Tactical Preview: Manchester City v Chelsea


The FA Cup fifth round has thrown up some interesting fixtures, none more so than the third meeting this season between Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City and Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

Chelsea have come out on top in the last two fixtures, most notably keeping a clean sheet at the Etihad in a recent 1-0 victory over City. With that in mind, Pellegrini will be desperate for his team to bounce back and record a big literal and psychological victory over Mourinho's side.

 

Possible line-ups

 

Manchester City remain without Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho, but Samir Nasri should at least make the bench having returned to full training. David Silva should be shifted into a more central area, following his weak defensive performance against Chelsea in that recent 1-0 defeat.

Chelsea skipper John Terry is still out, meaning David Luiz will start. Fernando Torres should also lead the line having replaced the relatively ineffective Samuel Eto’o as a sub midweek. Aside from that Mourinho will shift to a 4-3-3 bringing Frank Lampard into the fold in place of the more attack minded Oscar.


Chelsea's counter attacking flair

Since losing to Sunderland 2-1 in the League Cup Jose Mourinho has altered his Chelsea side to become more reactive and counter-attacking.

It was this counter-attacking approach that paid dividends the last time the Blues travelled to Manchester, with the side hitting the wood work three times as well as scoring what was ultimately the winner against Man City.

Chelsea had eight shots on target in this tie to City's three, despite the fact that the home side enjoyed 65% of the possession. This is a trend we can expect to see repeated on Saturday, with Manchester City likely to dominate the ball, whilst Chelsea soak up the pressure and look to spring on the break.

Central to this tactic will be Eden Hazard, who was running riot on the counter attack last time these two teams met, completing 11 out of an attempted 14 dribbles:

 

Hazard largely operated from the left and at times ran Pablo Zabaleta ragged, as he did when he skinned the full-back to hit it across the face of the goal to Samuel Eto'o, who hit the frame of the goal.

City will need to do more in this tie to halt Chelsea's speed on the counter and will be wise to not allow Willian or Hazard, both of whom are incredibly fast on the ball, to move through the gears and break away.

One problem that City had was that David Silva, operating from the left flank, was cutting inside a lot and as such didn't charge back to protect his full-back when City lost the ball. The result of this was that Chelsea exploited the space down the flanks during transitions, as City were a man light defending the break and were far too open at times when they lost the ball.

Pellegrini won't want to be defeated again by his adversary Mourinho, so might opt for a slight change in tactics, perhaps playing with Silva centrally behind a forward, in order to alleviate this problem.

 

Can City find a way to goal?

Chelsea had conceded just once in six games prior to their late slip against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday night.

That being said, Chelsea were without their captain Terry, who has been in fine form this season. He was excellent when Chelsea met Manchester City in the recent Premier League tie and his organizational ability was key to keeping a clean sheet. Terry made seven successful clearances in this tie as we can see below:

Terry marshalled City's strikers, along with his centre-back partner Gary Cahill, effectively all game long and City badly missed their top scorer Aguero, who will continue to miss out here with injury.

The absence of Aguero has been felt hard by City, who again failed to score in their 0-0 draw with Norwich last weekend.

With none of their backup strikers really doing enough to look like filling the Argentinian forward’s boots. City might then struggle for goals against a stingy Chelsea back-line.

Another factor could be the continued absence of Fernandinho, with the club failing to score on all four occasions he has missed this season. The Brazilian isn't much of a goal threat on his own, but he does allow Yaya Toure to get forward with more aggression and the Ivorian, who is City's second top Premier League goal scorer, has looked less effective without Fernandinho sitting in behind him.

 

Conclusion

Both of these sides are desperate for trophies and as such the third 'El Cashico' of the season should not disappoint, at least from a tactical standpoint.

Neither side will want a replay given what is already a congested time of the year, and thus we can expect both sides to be chasing the victory. It will be a clash of styles as Chelsea will set up in a reactive manner, whilst City will go at Chelsea, doing what they do best (usually), attacking.


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