After a midweek trip to Paris in the Champions League, Chelsea return to Stamford Bridge to welcome Manchester City in the FA Cup. The Blues drew 2-1 to Paris Saint-Germain in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie with the French giants and will now turn their attention to a domestic trophy that manager Guus Hiddink and his squad would like to add to the trophy case.
Champions League success has become paramount for many of the big English teams, and that is reflected perfectly by what may happen at Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City face a trip that Chelsea are quite familiar with – the long flight to the Ukraine to face a tricky Dynamo Kiev side. In previous weeks, Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has criticized the decision to play this match on Sunday when City have a Wednesday match in the Ukraine.
However, the combination of television coverage and the logistics of playing in London – Charlton face Fulham at Craven Cottage on Saturday – meant the match could not be moved, and City are left with a squad selection dilemma.
Pellegrini has stated he may play a weekend side against the reigning Premier League champions, and that could be exacerbated by injuries and fitness concerns. The City boss says he has only 13 fit senior players available for the clash with Chelsea with notable absentees of Eliaquim Mangala, Fabian Delph, Bakary Sagna, Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony, and the long-term injuries to Samir Nasri and Kevin De Bruyne.
Add to those injuries the fact that Vincent Kompany is just recovering from a long spell on the sidelines with a calf problem and the risk involved with playing David Silva and Sergio Aguero, who both have endured spells of injury this term, and the City side may look quite different on Sunday.
It’s not as though Chelsea don’t have one or two injury concerns of their own. Kurt Zouma’s long-term absence and John Terry’s hamstring/ligament problem sustained during the 5-1 victory over Newcastle United last week that saw him miss the midweek match with PSG means that Chelsea once again enter a match with just one senior centre back in Gary Cahill, though Branislav Ivanovic deputised in that position against PSG and most likely will again.
Other absentees will be Alexandre Pato, who is still short of match fitness since his January move, and the long-term absence of Falcao. Diego Costa suffered a broken nose in training last week but recovered and played with a mask against PSG, though Loic Remy may be hoping to get a start on Sunday.
On the positive side, Oscar recovered from a mild calf problem sustained against Newcastle to feature against PSG, albeit for just 20 minutes. Nemanja Matic was suspended for the PSG after three bookings in the Champions League and will be available for Sunday’s match.
One main concern for the Blues is once more the form of Eden Hazard. To say the Belgian has failed to recover his form from last season would be an understatement, and he didn’t have the greatest performance midweek amidst speculation of wanting to leave at the end of the season.
Hiddink has asked for more from the Belgian, but it will be interesting to see if he features at all against City. With Oscar fit, Matic available, and Pedro enjoying a good spell in the first team, Hazard may well again find himself among the substitutes now that Hiddink has a few in-form and fit options when selecting in his attackers.