Chelsea travel to Manchester City on Monday hoping to regain some ground on the league leaders. The Blues were denied the opportunity to move up to second in the league by West Ham’s impenetrable defence last Wednesday, and the suggestion that Chelsea would employ similar tactics at the Etihad was firmly rebuffed by Jose Mourinho at his pre-match press conference on Friday, as reported on chelseafc.com.
We are going to try to win. Chelsea try to win every game. I have always said that about any competition or any game. What concerns me is my team playing well, my team trying to get the best possible result and to feel the improvement. We are not going to change our philosophy. We are going in a certain direction, and just because we are playing a certain opponent doesn't mean we are going to change that. We are going to try to win.
City’s goalscoring record at home this season has been phenomenal, and Chelsea’s back four will certainly be busy. Gary Cahill and John Terry should continue their central defensive partnership, with Branislav Ivanovic likely to be deployed to deal with David Silva again. Mourinho’s only difficult defensive decision will be who to start at left-back.
Ashley Cole has been frustrated by his lack of playing time this season, and he put in an excellent performance in the reverse fixture. However, Cesar Azpilicueta has started the majority of games since then and should continue that trend on Monday, with Mourinho having highlighted his importance to the balance of the defence at chelseafc.com.
At the moment our team is playing very well from a defensive point of view. We've found some balance. On our left side we have Eden, a very offensive winger that plays very wide, and we have stability with Azpilicueta being behind him as a strong defender. On the right side it's different because we have a winger who comes inside a lot and a right-back that is going forward, so we are finding the balances.
Nemanja Matic and Frank Lampard would be the best central midfield pairing for this game. The Serbian would provide the stability in the pivot to allow Lampard to make his trademark runs into space, creating more chances to score. However, Ramires will likely start ahead of Chelsea’s all-time top scorer.
Andre Schurrle scored the opening goal in the reverse fixture and could replace Willian in the starting XI. Eden Hazard and Oscar will complete the attacking trio behind the striker.
Fernando Torres’ winner against City in October showed a hint of the form that commanded his £50 million transfer fee. However, with the Spaniard still sidelined through injury, per chelseafc.com, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba will battle it out for the starting spot.
Mourinho preferred Eto’o to Ba against Manchester United due to his skill in tight spaces, and he was rewarded with a hat-trick from the Cameroonian. Against City however, the majority of Chelsea’s chances are likely to come on the break, which should give Ba the advantage.
The "Special One" has played down Chelsea’s title chances this season, insisting that this year is all about building for the future. Despite this, he will not want to leave the Etihad empty-handed while his side remain three points away from the league leaders.