Chelsea have reached the end of a crucial week and will meet Premier League leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge at tea time on Saturday. The match against City caps off a testing week for the Blues with two big matches back-to-back.
Wednesday night, Chelsea resumed their Champions League campaign, travelling to the Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid to take on perennial semi-finalists Atletico Madrid in the first European match at their new ground.
The Blues spoiled their party, however, putting in one of the best European performances by an English team on the road in recent years, running out 2-1 winners after Michy Batshuayi won the game with the last kick of the game.
Now Chelsea return to domestic competition to face high-flying Manchester City who has scored 21 goals in the league this season to only 2 conceded.
But Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has a small injury crisis on his hands. City’s leading scorer Sergio Aguero will miss out on Saturday, and perhaps be missing for even longer, after suffering injuries in a car accident on Thursday night during a trip to Amsterdam.
Aguero’s injury only compounds the matter, as Benjamin Mendy was ruled out for months after rupturing a cruciate ligament against Crystal Palace and depriving City of their lone specialist left back and Vincent Kompany has not yet returned from his calf injury suffered on his return from the international break.
Compared to the City defence, their depth in attacking areas is still strong, with Gabriel Jesus likely to play a bigger role and Raheem Sterling, who’s had a great start to the season, Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva adding to their attacking options.
City’s strength in attack has been bolstered by the form of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. The two midfielders combined have created 41 chances and recorded 7 assists while playing a freer role ahead of Fernandinho in the holding role.
Chelsea themselves have found a good spell of form. Last weekend’s 4-0 victory away to Stoke saw Alvaro Morata register the first hat trick of his career and his first hat trick for Chelsea, and he followed it up with the equalising goal on Wednesday night against Atletico Madrid.
Eden Hazard also made his second start of the season after being introduced back into the squad slowly following injury and was a dominant force on Wednesday night, creating the cross for Morata’s goal and causing Atletico’s midfield and defence with his movement.
Against Atletico, Antonio Conte opted for what resembled a 3-5-1-1 with Hazard given a free role behind the lone striker Morata. It offered a bit more midfield solidity by playing a trio of Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko, and N’Golo Kante, which could be effective against the midfield three that City will likely deploy.
But it’s hard to guess what team Conte will pick. The manager has lamented the scheduling of this fixture, clearly not happy that City had an extra day of rest and his side will play just three days after their meeting with Atletico Madrid. The Chelsea manager has said he will need to assess his players’ fitness on Saturday.
Despite this match coming early in the season, a win for either side could end up being significant in the title race this season. Last season, City got off to a similar flying start, but suffered defeat to Chelsea at the Etihad Stadium, knocking their title challenge off course.
City never quite regained their form after that defeat in December, and in the end, a team that looked destined for the Premier League title ended up falling far short of that goal.
The same thing could happen at Stamford Bridge this season. City is in a very similar run of form, registering a 5-0 win over Liverpool along the way. Chelsea present a much different type of challenge, and by the end of the match Sunday, the title picture may be a bit clearer.