After eight Premier League games the table is beginning to take shape. Chelsea are second on 17 points whilst Manchester City are breathing down their (and Arsenal's) necks with 16 points in fourth. This tie is probably the first big clash of the season between two title rivals and will no doubt tell us a lot about where the trophy will go come May.
Fernando Torres should retain his place up front in the Chelsea side following two goals against Manchester City. Ashley Cole should come in for Cesar Azpilicueta, fitness permitting, whilst Gary Cahill will likely partner John Terry in defence.
Manchester City might remain without their captain Vincent Kompany for this crucial tie. Joleon Lescott will come in for Javi Garcia, who had a torrid night in Moscow midweek, to partner Matija Nastasic at the heart of City's defence. Sergio Aguero, who is in fine form, should continue up top, partnered with Alvaro Negredo.
Chelsea to counter attack?
Jose Mourinho is a manager known for his pragmatism and as such we probably won't see the most proactive line-up from Chelsea in this fixture. In recent weeks we've seen Chelsea perform very well on the counter-attack, even at home against the likes of Cardiff City. Nowhere was this better embodied than in Chelsea's 3-0 win away to Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday night when Chelsea took the lead early on, only to sit back and score two goals on the break to kill the tie.
This is generally done through Chelsea's three attacking midfielders, with Eden Hazard and Oscar leading the charge against Schalke. Andre Schurrle can also provide an outlet on the break down the left hand side, as can Ramires if he drives down the middle of the pitch. Chelsea might look to target Manchester City on the counter-attack down the wings, as City can become quite narrow at times in their 4-2-2-2 formation. The club can become somewhat vulnerable to the break in behind David Silva, who tucks in off the left hand side:
As we can see above from City's average positions from the 3-1 victory away at West Ham, Silva (21) started as a left midfielder but is in a very central position. Silva doesn't like to stick wide and is most effective centrally, but this can leave the left-back over-exposed if he's targeted. As such, Chelsea might look to put Eden Hazard on the right to give Silva a problem in behind and look to overload the full-back when the chance to counter presents itself.
David Silva versus Chelsea's midfield pair
David Silva has had praised heaped on him by fellow players and neutrals alike this week. The Spanish playmaker has emerged as a top quality player since he moved to the Premier League and was at his majestic best away at West Ham last weekend. Silva scored a goal and registered an assist. Silva also created six chances for his team-mates as we can see in the image below, which demonstrates what a creative presence he will be in this tie:
With Silva being such an obvious creative outlet and such a dangerous player for City when he's on the ball, Chelsea will have to marshal him incredibly carefully as he drifts inside, or risk being picked apart.
This means that the marking Silva will primarily fall to Frank Lampard or Ramires, who will be playing as central midfielders for Chelsea, as Silva will move into their area of the pitch. The pair are not the perfect pivot but do offer a degree of bite in the middle, as well as precision. Ramires for example averages 3.5 tackles per game, whilst Lampard makes 2.3 tackles per game making the pair Chelsea's top and second top tacklers respectively.
The worry though is that Lampard isn't mobile enough and Ramires is too willing to burst forward for a tie like this. The pair will end up in a lot of two versus three situations as Silva will join Yaya Toure and Fernandinho in making it a midfield three for City, an area where they can over-run Chelsea. This might require Oscar dropping off from the attacking midfield position to chip in, or at least to occupy one of Toure or Fernaninho when Chelsea are without the ball to make it a three on three.
Manchester City's Premier League away form isn't the best, which might fill Chelsea with some confidence going into this game at Stamford Bridge. City have however come off the back of a valuable away wins at West Ham and CSKA Moscow. One of the key areas to watch will be David Silva, how he drifts off the flank, potentially leaving his left-back exposed, and also how he can overload Chelsea's centre-midfielders when he joins up with Toure and Fernandinho.
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