A visit to Stamford Bridge to face an in-form Chelsea poses a challenge for any team, but Manchester City's loss of Vincent Kompany ensures that Jose Mourinho's side will continue their unbeaten run on Sunday.
According to Alan Wilson at the Mirror, Manuel Pellegrini definitively ruled Kompany out of the clash, confirming that "Vincent is still injured. He will not have a chance to play."
This is a huge blow for a City side that has struggled to pick up points away from home this year. With their league form away from the Etihad consisting of four points from four games, this fixture is going to cause them problems.
Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard summed it up nicely when he spoke to Sky Sports. "Kompany is really important for City," stated the 22-year-old, "because when he plays they win and when he doesn't play they lose, often."
Hazard's Belgium teammate is instrumental to City's defence. The Citizens get an obvious boost from having their captain on the field.
Hazard is absolutely correct that they often struggle without Kompany to lead them,
Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (94%) has the best pass completion rate for a CB this season (Min 2+ EPL games played). @Stephencarron_9— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 25, 2013
Chelsea's recent success includes seven goals from their last two league games, with Hazard himself contributing three. Although those wins came against Cardiff and Norwich, they nevertheless send the London club into the City game full of confidence.
Although Fernando Torres hasn't scored in the Premier League since the 2-1 victory over Everton in May—also his only league goal of 2013—his two midweek goals in Europe are likely to see him start on Sunday.
Hazard's excellent form is also an ominous sign for a Kompany-less City. The Belgian should be a constant headache for either Javi Garcia or Martin Demichelis acting in relief of the City skipper, and Chelsea will look to attack the back four through Hazard's turn of pace.
When asked to deputise Kompany, Garcia has sometimes struggled and Demichelis is only just available following a hamstring injury. Pellegrini could be unwilling to throw the Argentinian into his first City start in such an important game.
Kompany's position will be where the game is won or lost.
Who's your money on?
Although the Citizens will always be in the game with Sergio Aguero—eight goals in his last six games across all competitions—Chelsea have been granted yet another boost with the return of Ashley Cole.
Like Kompany, Cole is vital to the success of the defence and Mourinho should welcome him back. He offers both reliability at the back and an extra attacking option, again putting pressure on the City defence.
The winner of this fixture could be the team holding the Premier League trophy at the end of the season.
While there are a lot of games to be played between now and then, the loss of Kompany grants Chelsea an advantage that should see them take the three points and widen the gap on their rivals.