If you had told a Chelsea fan that this match-up with Manchester City would be a dress rehearsal for the UEFA Champions League Final, they would have laughed. An incredible run to the Final under new coach Thomas Tuchel, though, will see the two ‘other’ giants of the English game take on one another. Before that, though, a vital league game for the future of Chelsea awaits. Can they come to Manchester and claim a flagship win to put their marker down ahead of meeting up against one another in Istanbul?
With both teams arriving into this one in high confidence and great form, expect a bombastic game with both sides eager to prove their point.
City will be without John Stones, who was sent off in their last league match. However, outside of that they should be able to field close to a full first-team. This is a farcry from the skeleton side that Chelsea dismantled in the FA Cup Semi-Finals.
Rodri should come back into the squad, offering authority in place of the likely rested Fernandinho. Another key player who will come into the side is Aymeric Laporte, who has become an increasingly crucial figure again under Guardiola. We might see one of Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez rested to help give the team some extra legs as they come to the most crucial part of the season.
The Blues will rock up to Manchester knowing they need to really make a big impression. A win is essential to both stop City winning the title and to also keep themselves in the UCL hunt. Thomas Tuchel will likely be without Cesar Azpilicueta, while Mateo Kovacic will also likely sit this one out after missing a lot of football.
Like City, Chelsea made short work of their UCL second leg, dismissing Real Madrid; only a gluttony of missed chances stopped this from being an utter rout. Tuchel might look to rest some players, though, especially after Jorginho and N’Golo Kante gave so much in midweek. Expect some changes to come into as Chelsea look to give some of their most regularly used players under Tuchel a bit of extra time to rest and recover. Expect Marcos Alonso and Reece James to get a start in the full/wing-back roles.
This should be an exceptional game with two teams who are nearing full fitness and are utterly brimming with confidence. This will be a dress rehearsal for the Final, but a title can be won and UCL spots can be secured with wins for either team. Expect a game that is full of energy, rather than a chance for two big clubs to play out for a low energy draw.
Chelsea arrive to play a City team who have conceded a surprising number of goals recently, though, so should be confident in putting a bit of pressure on the City team. However, we cannot call a winner; this has score draw written all over it.