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How Chelsea Could Counter Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa Absences vs. Man City

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa of Chelsea show their dejection after conceding a fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on January 1, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

After the highs of Liverpool comes the reality of Manchester City.

Chelsea may have reached the Capital One Cup final this week, but it has come at a cost. Cesc Fabregas and Filipe Luis both hobbled off with injuries in the 1-0 victory, while Diego Costa faces a three-match ban for violent conduct after an alleged stamp on Emre Can.

With Manuel Pellegrini's side paying Chelsea a visit on Saturday, injuries and suspensions couldn't have come at a worse time for Jose Mourinho and his team.

The clash represents the last chance for Chelsea or City to take points directly from their rivals in the title race, and regardless of whether or not both managers disagree with the notion it will go some way to shaping their respective seasons, it will.

Victory for Chelsea and they'll begin to look out of sight again. Their lead will be eight points, and with games running out, City will have a considerable mountain to climb.

Beat Chelsea, though, and Pellegrini's men will be right back in it, narrowing the gap at the top to just two points.

They'll have momentum and the confidence to go on and retain their title.

A draw and, of course, it means little. Things remain as they were—nobody can claim bragging rights.

Chelsea need to field their best XI to ensure they come out on top, though, and with doubts lingering over Fabregas and Costa, Mourinho's mind will be working over time on the different combinations he can play.

Given the squad he has at his disposal, all is not lost. Chelsea have plenty of options.

Play Oscar in the midfield pivot

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 27:  Eden Hazard, Oscar and Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea celebrate victory in the Capital One Cup Semi-Final second leg between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on January 27, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hew
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

If Fabregas is declared unfit to face City, one option for Mourinho could be to play Oscar in a deeper role than what we are used to seeing him.

The success of this Chelsea team has been based on Fabregas' brilliance in possession. He's the counter for which the whole operation revolves.

Fabregas' craft has got Chelsea moving forward this year, unlocking defences in ways they couldn't before.

The Spanish international is an excellent passer, but not only that, he has the vision and skill to dictate the pace of the game, often to Chelsea's favour.

Oscar is a player who can fill this void.

He may not be as sleek as Fabregas, but the Brazilian is certainly capable of filling in alongside Nemanja Matic for a limited period.

Like Fabregas, he can pass well and is skilful enough to get Chelsea breaking at pace. Not only that, he can also tackle and break up play.

Without Fabregas, the only other options in midfield are John Obi Mikel and Ramires. Neither are talented enough in possession to hurt City from deep like Oscar and Fabregas can.

Outside of that pair, Nathan Ake has shown promise, but his inexperience will be a major mark against his name. And besides, Mourinho would be foolish to risk him in such a high-stakes game.

With Oscar playing deeper, Ramires can move forward into the front three attacking positions, which is where we have seen the best from him in a Chelsea shirt.

One concern for Oscar would be his decision-making. Against Liverpool in midweek, he was guilty of some poor decisions at times, something City would certainly punish in the final third.

Play both Didier Drogba and Loic Remy up front

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04:  Willian of Chelsea (22) celebrates with Ramires (L), Didier Drogba (2R) and Cesar Azpilicueta (R) as he scores their first goal during the FA Cup Third Round match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge on January 4,
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Should Costa's proposed ban be enforced in time for the City game, Mourinho will have a big void to fill up front.

Costa has been the Premier League's stand-out striker this term. He leads the scoring charts with 17 goals and is a real menace.

Chelsea need to have presence up front to unsettle the City back four. Didier Drogba has shown he can still do that at times, but by switching to two strikers, Mourinho will certainly give Pellegrini and his men food for thought.

Vincent Kompany is a brute at the back, an exceptional defender. However, we have seen this season he is as vulnerable as the next man when isolated.

Without Costa, Chelsea will be fielding a striker lacking recent game time. Whether it's Drogba or Remy, without being in their flow, it's a big ask for one man to take on the City defence.

Chelsea are playing at home. They need to get at their opponents and ask questions of a defence that has looked shaky at times this term.

Fielding a double act could be a solution, bombarding City and putting them on the back foot.

Play Andre Schurrle on the wing

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 17:  Jose Mourinho, manager of Chelsea speaks with Andre Schuerrle of Chelsea as he prepares to gon on during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on January 17, 2015 in Swansea, Wa
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

With so many question marks surrounding Andre Schurrle's Chelsea future, we're not even sure if he'll be at the club come Saturday.

Also, will he be fit after missing the recent cup matches with Bradford City and Liverpool due a reported back complaint?

If Schurrle is available, Mourinho can do a lot worse than give him a chance to redeem himself.

Schurrle provides width, and if Fabregas is absent, Chelsea are going need to work the channels far more to stretch City.

Without Fabregas, they will lack that craft to play through the congested central areas, so utilising the wings more often could be their best chance of getting some joy.

If Schurrle starts wide, Willian is capable of operating on the other flank—left or right—meaning the genius of Eden Hazard can switch more centrally in the No. 10 role where he will prove a constant menace.

Schurrle has blown hot and cold at Chelsea. From appearing a forgotten man this time last year, he worked his way back into contention with some excellent displays.

He started 2014/15 with a bang, but with injury and illness taking hold in October, we haven't seen the best of him since.

Could City be his opportunity to resurrect his Chelsea career?

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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