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Friday, 30 January 2015

Battle of the Bosses

Saturday evening will see the two top teams in this season’s Premier League face off in a potentially title deciding clash at Stamford Bridge. The headlines have been flooded with injury worries and absentees from the game but in a game of fine margins it looks to be a tactical battle between Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini that will decide this huge fixture.

The importance of a win for both sides in this game is crucial, a win for Mourinho’s side would put them 8 points clear and even at this stage of the season that could be a bridge too far for the Sky Blues. A win for City however would close the gap to just 2 points and give City all the momentum going into the final few months of the season in what we expect will be a two horse race with Southampton currently 10 points off the pace in third place.

Games of these magnitude are the ones where managers show their class with the slightest details meaning so much and few managers thrive under the pressure like Chelsea man Jose Mourinho. Mourinho is at this moment in time the most tactically astute manager in the Premier League and doesn’t he know it. Last season Chelsea finished third but their game against Liverpool at Anfield was still the defining game of the season and Mourinho may not have won the league for his own side but he pretty much handed it to this weekends opponents with a tactically flawless display. Mourinho rarely loses big games and it would be a surprise if he started this Saturday.

The same cannot be said for Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini who despite leading Manchester City to the Premier League title last season is yet to win a game of major importance. Last season City’s biggest match of the season was at Anfield, a game they lost 3-2. Fortunately for them, Mourinho’s Chelsea salvaged the title for them but the Chilean was unable to mastermind a victory at Anfield himself. A recent defeat at home at the hands of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side by two goals to nil was another big game that Pellegrini failed to win and it couldn’t have come at a worse time with the Chelsea game just around the corner.

In terms of injuries both sides are pretty even, City are missing both Yaya Toure and Bony who are away on International duty with Samir Nasri also absent through injury. Chelsea will be without their two key summer signings, Diego Costa who has been suspended for three games over his stamp on Emre Can midweek and Cesc Fabregas who is a big doubt because of a hamstring injury. Both managers will be disappointed in not having full strength sides for such a huge game but still possess some great footballers capable of winning this tie.

Without Costa, Mourinho will be forced to play either Remy or Drogba up-front, adequate replacements, the main threat however will come through the brilliant Eden Hazard who has been a star for Chelsea this season. He alongside Oscar and Willian will probably play off the striker and offer great threat in attack. Pellegrini also has some match winners in his side that he will hope can be the difference at the Bridge. David Silva has been unplayable in the past month or so with Thierry Henry even labelling him the “best player in the Premier League” recently and he will be out to prove that statement in this game. Up-front City also have the best finisher in the Premier League Sergio Aguero, the injury hit striker is on the comeback trail and although not 100% fit he will be looking to add to his 14 league goals this season.

One would expect that Mourinho will set up his side to win this game as he tries to end the challenge of Manchester City at this early stage, City however may set up to absorb the pressure and catch them on the break although as the game wears on if its still level Pellegrini’s men will have to go for the winner and who knows maybe former Chelsea man Frank Lampard may step up again with a late goal just to win the game for City on this occasion.

The stats are not pretty viewing for Manchester City fans, Chelsea have played City 17 times at home in Premier League history winning 11 and losing just twice. Under Mourinho they’ve never lost at home to City and Mourinho including his time at Madrid has never been beaten by a Manchester City team at home. If his record was not already good enough, Mourinho has lost one game at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League in his Chelsea career. These stats look ominous for Pellegrini’s side but it is unlikely they will be overly fazed by statistics as they look to reignite their title challenge on Saturday evening.

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