Chelsea vs. Manchester City: Complete Player-by-Player Breakdown

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistApril 15, 2016

Chelsea vs. Manchester City: Complete Player-by-Player Breakdown

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    Chelsea face Manchester City this weekend in the Premier League.

    The expectation was that this game, coming so late in the season, would've been a title-decider. In more recent years it's been Manchester City and Chelsea going head-to-head in competing for the league crown.

    Not this season. Chelsea's hopes of retaining their title have long gone, while City themselves have fallen well off the pace of Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at the top.

    While Chelsea seem to be playing with next season in mind, City are playing to keep their rivals and neighbours Manchester United out of the top four. It means that whereas the visit of Manuel Pellegrini's side should be highly anticipated, it's taking a backseat with some of the other fixtures this weekend that have more riding on them.

    Despite their respective struggles, both sides come complete with world-class talent throughout their squads. So as the countdown to the game begins, we compare each side and grade their players on performances this season.

    NB: Our head-to-head selection is based on predicted lineups at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Goalkeeper

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    Thibaut Courtois vs. Joe Hart

    Both Chelsea and City have talented goalkeepers, but it's Pellegrini's side that have seen the better of their custodian this term.

    Since the opening day of the season, Thibaut Courtois' year hasn't gone well. He was sent off against Swansea City, and soon after he picked up a knee injury that kept him out for three months.

    Since his return, Courtois hasn't looked his usual dominant self. He's been questionable with some of his decision-making, and that has added more damage to the Chelsea defence.

    All the while, Joe Hart has been a big figure for City. We've seen that in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals, after he made some vital saves at key moments against Paris Saint-Germain.

    City have relied on him at times, whereas the same can't be said for Courtois.

    At the highest level, there's not much between the best goalkeepers. There isn't between Courtois and Hart, although this term the latter has been in better form.

    Grades:

    Courtois: C

    Hart: B+

Defenders

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    Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta vs. Pablo Zabaleta

    It's difficult to judge Cesar Azpilicueta solely as a right-back as he's predominantly been on the left this term. With John Terry out injured, he'll fill in for Branislav Ivanovic, who moves to the centre.

    The Spaniard is one of the few players Chelsea have counted on this term. He's disciplined defensively and offers plenty going forward.

    Pablo Zabaleta is the same for City, but he hasn't been as effective as in previous years. We've seen him perform in dynamic fashion and really boss players, but at 31, he hasn't looked quite as impressive.

    Grades:

    Azpilicueta: B-

    Zabaleta: C

    Centre-back: Gary Cahill vs. Nicolas Otamendi

    Gary Cahill and Nicolas Otamendi are two defenders who have had their problems this season. The Englishman has suffered with the rest of the Chelsea side, while the Argentinian has struggled to settle in the Premier League.

    The latter showed on Tuesday evening against PSG that there is a talented and capable centre-back just waiting to show his wares, though. As for Cahill, he has enough credit in the bank at Chelsea for us to know what he offers the Blues.

    Grades:

    Cahill: C-

    Otamendi: C-

    Centre-back: Branislav Ivanovic vs. Eliaquim Mangala

    As a right-back, Branislav Ivanovic has been very poor this term. We've seen him regress significantly to the point that he's been unrecognisable from the player of old. Playing through the centre, however, he has reminded us of what a fine defender he is. Now 32, it's time that becomes a more permanent solution.

    As for Eliaquim Mangala, it's clear City can't rely on him to perform well regularly. Now in his second season at the Etihad Stadium, he remains inconsistent and prone to mistakes. Tuesday night was a high point for him, but he remains too vulnerable defensively.

    Grades:

    Ivanovic: C-

    Mangala: C

    Left-back: Kenedy vs. Aleksandar Kolarov

    How do we judge Kenedy this season? Is it as a left-back or an attacker? He's played in both positions and has largely impressed. He's still raw, which is why we're willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when mistakes are made, but he needs to start showing that he's developed. Playing in one position more regularly will help that.

    Aleksandar Kolarov has the look of a player who will not figure too much under Pep Guardiola next season for City. He's not as effective as he once was, with Gael Clichy surpassing him on the left. He's a big threat from set pieces, but he's at the opposite end of the spectrum compared to Kenedy and where their careers are headed.

    Grades:

    Kenedy: C+

    Kolarov: C

Midfield Pivot

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    John Obi Mikel vs. Fernandinho

    The renaissance of John Obi Mikel under Guus Hiddink continues, although there are still shortcomings in his game that mean he isn't what Chelsea need in the long term. Mikel has plugged the gap in midfield, and that's helped solidify the Blues in matches since the turn of the year. He is prone to some errors, and whenever he has faced the best players this term, he has been found out.

    Fernandinho is like Mikel in that regard. He is an expert at dispossessing players in the middle third, but he can be found out of position. That leaves the City defence exposed at times, with his lack of discipline undoing a lot of the good things we see from him.

    Grades:

    Mikel: B

    Fernandinho: B

    Cesc Fabregas vs. Fernando

    Cesc Fabregas remains the catalyst for this Chelsea side. He connects attack and defence, controlling the tempo of games. Without him, Chelsea lack the same drive going forward and struggle to unlock teams.

    He endured a tough first half of the campaign, but that was more about what was going on around him. Fabregas was sucked into more defensive duties, and it simply isn't his game.

    It's no surprise that since he's been back on form, Chelsea's attackers have carried more threat.

    Fernando operates differently to Fabregas, but he can effective in midfield. He shares duties well with Fernandinho, mopping up play and getting the side moving forward. His problem is consistency, which means we're never quite sure what we're going to get from him.

    Grades:

    Fabregas: B-

    Fernando: B-

Attacking Midfield

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    Rui Vieira/Associated Press

    Right: Willian vs. Jesus Navas

    There's no contest here as to who is the most effective player in attack. Whereas Jesus Navas' game is about raw pace and attempting to get beyond players to the byline, Willian operates in a more holistic style.

    Willian defends, he attacks and creates. This term has seen him add more of a final product, too, which has saved Chelsea's season at times. There's nothing for Chelsea to play for this season, but without Willian, it would have been the case a long time before.

    Navas hasn't impacted City in quite the same way.

    Grades:

    Willian: A-

    Navas: C

    Centre: David Silva vs. Oscar

    Like Willian vs. Navas, there's no contest here. Oscar continues to be a massive disappointment for Chelsea, lacking the sort of creative edge a player needs to operate in this area of the pitch. He doesn't produce enough assists, nor does he score enough goals.

    David Silva, on the other hand, is an exceptional talent. He remains key to everything City produce in an attacking sense, carving out openings and scoring goals himself. Put simply, he's a wonderful player. The fact he hasn't quite been his best this term doesn't change that.

    Grades:

    Oscar: F

    Silva: B+

    Left: Pedro vs. Kevin De Bruyne

    Here we go with that no contest line again. Well, there isn't when we're comparing Pedro and Kevin De Bruyne.

    Both have been settling with new teams this season, in quite different circumstances. Whereas Pedro hasn't benefited from the chaos at Stamford Bridge, the continuity at City has helped De Bruyne produce the goods.

    Pedro has been a face among many, while De Bruyne has been one of City's best performers, which was highlighted by the fact they struggled in his absence in the first few months of 2016. Since De Bruyne has returned to fitness, City's dynamic has changed completely.

    The Belgian is a big reason for them reaching the Champions League semi-finals.

    Grades:

    Pedro: C-

    De Bruyne: A

Striker

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    Diego Costa vs. Sergio Aguero

    How do you split two highly talented strikers? Both have suffered dips in form this season, but we need only look at their respective goal tallies to get a measure for how dangerous they remain.

    Diego Costa has hit the back of the net 11 times in 24 Premier League games, with Sergio Aguero recording 18 in 25.

    As an out-and-out goalscorer, that probably reinforces the fact Aguero edges the fight in that department. Costa's 11 goals have come in a struggling side, however, with the Chelsea man suffering considerably pre-Christmas.

    Costa offers a bit more outside of the box than Aguero. Whereas the Argentinian will largely play through the middle, Costa has a tendency to wander and bring others into play. That has helped Chelsea at times, yet when times were tougher than they are now, it proved frustrating, as they lacked any real presence in the middle.

    It's been an up-and-down season for both, summed up for Aguero by his penalty miss against PSG on Tuesday.

    Grades:

    Costa: C

    Aguero: B-

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