With the news that Chelsea will play Manchester United in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, the attention of the club must first turn a critical match with Manchester City on Sunday. Both teams have a lot to play for as City are sitting in third position just two points ahead of Chelsea and seven points behind United. A victory for either team, coupled with United’s latest injury woes and Arsenal’s suspect mental game, could give the winner an outside chance of winning the title.
For this crucial match, Carlo Ancelotti will have the healthiest squad that he’s had in a long time. Alex looks set to be available and Yossi Benayoun is back in training, though is unlikely to feature Sunday. However, Ancelotti will also know that he has not beaten City since he took charge of Chelsea last year. Both meetings last year resulted in City wins and City won this season’s matchup at Eastlands 1-0.
It may well be a good time to face the Citizens who face the prospect of going without a trophy for another year. Roberto Mancini’s men were unceremoniously dumped out of the Europa League Thursday night by a Dynamo Kiev side led by the rejuvenated Andriy Shevchenko. They are still in the FA Cup after a rather uninspiring victory over Reading last week. It is important to note that win was at home, as City have not won away from home since Boxing Day.
Mancini looks set to bench £24m striker Mario Balotelli. The Italian striker failed to be able to dress himself in the first half, though minutes later he was sent to the dressing room for a senseless challenge that drew red from the official. Adam Johnson may also be available after recovering from an ankle injury, but the Citizens will be without Kolo Toure who is suspended due to poor choice in diet pills.
The trick to City is to find a way around their general philosophy of attacking with four and defending with six. They are heavily reliant on the magic produced by David Silva and Carlos Tevez, reflected in the 21 goals scored by Tevez this term. Aside from those two, the attacking threat of City is quite blunt. Aleksandar Kolarov will offer attacking width from left fullback, but is quite suspect defensively. That description could also be the same for Micah (pronounced mee-KAH, per player request) Richards. In fact, the weakness of this City side is their backline of Richards, Kompany, Lescott, and Kolarov, however they are provided with a three-man midfield shield of Yaya Toure, Nigel de Jong, and Gareth Barry.
All in all, a win is crucial for Chelsea. Depending on the United and Arsenal results, we could be within six or seven points with a game in hand and a trip to Old Trafford in the league should we win. Then we can start to prepare for our somewhat favorable Champions League draw.