Surely there have been more meaningful matches between Manchester City and Chelsea than the one that will take place on Saturday, but nonetheless, the two teams will meet at Stamford Bridge to renew a rivalry that burned a lot hotter in meetings past.
But here we are on 16 April, and the two teams will face each other for the third time this season with very little at stake aside from bragging rights.
That wasn’t always the case this season. Chelsea and City met in the second week of the Premier League season, a clash that pitted the defending champions of 2014-2015 and the champions of 2013-2014 to see who might reign supreme this season.
As it turned out, this match proved to be an omen for the rest of Chelsea’s season. John Terry was subbed off at half-time, a victim of the quicker, sharper Sergio Aguero, and the Blues had trouble coping with City’s attack, leading to a 3-0 defeat.
The second meeting in the FA Cup 5th round took place under much more subdued conditions. City were facing a massive fixture pile-up and a trip to the Ukraine to face Dynamo Kiev in the midweek and played a reserve side at Stamford Bridge, leading to a 5-1 defeat at the hands of an almost full-strength Blues side challenging for their last chance at silverware.
This time, the only prize to be won, aside from victory itself, is that Manchester City need to the points to ensure that they hold on to a Champions League place in case they happen to not win it. Chelsea are sitting firmly in mid-table and have seen their own chance at a Europa League place flying further into the distance.
The good news for Chelsea is that Manchester City are coming off of a tough midweek fixture against the Blues old nemesis in Paris Saint-Germain. City should be on a high after vanquishing the Parisian side to advance to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, but the question with City will be whether they view the Chelsea match as one that requires their utmost concentration and effort.
The bad news for the Blues is that Kevin De Bruyne is fit and will most likely start in his first appearance since departing for Wolfsburg in January 2014. Since his return from injury, the Belgian has been a key factor in City’s mini-revival, starting with a goal in his full return against Bournemouth, his influence as a sub against West Bromwich Albion, and the two goals scored against PSG over two legs.
More so, he gives City an option that they’ve lacked for many months while he was out. He simultaneously provides a goal threat from midfield as well as the ability to create chances, and that the main men at City, David Silva, who himself has been struggling with injuries, and Yaya Toure have failed to deliver in his absence.
Chelsea, however, will be buoyed by their own returnees. Since the return from the last international break, manager Guus Hiddink has given the younger players a chance in the squad with mixed results. Against Aston Villa, the team ran roughshod over the Villains to the tune of 4 goals, but against Swansea didn’t look quite up to it in a 1-0 defeat.
With Diego Costa’s suspension finished and Willian once more fit after returning from international duty with a calf problem, Hiddink has most of his first-team squad available, albeit John Terry, Loic Remy, and Eden Hazard still remain injured.
Most likely, the Chelsea side should have a more familiar look, although Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been one bright spot amongst the other youngsters and might be given another start, this time against a top-quality opponent.