Manchester City V. Chelsea FC: Premier League & FA Cup Preview
Jose Mourinho had some wonderful words of benediction for Manchester City ahead of their clash against Tottenham Hotspur, "I prefer them to win, because if they win and if we win, we open a gap to Tottenham," he said earlier this week. A win, they did, by 5-1 at the White Hart Lane (or 11-1 in a home & away aggregate), while Chelsea were held to a 0-0- draw by West Ham at Stamford Bridge. One thing i know for sure is that he did not wish his benison to extend to their meetings- neither in the premier league on Monday as the Manchester City outfit welcomes the Blues of Stamford Bridge at the Etihad for the 24th round, nor on February 15th as they will lock horns again for the fifth round of the FA Cup. What we hardly know for sure is what kind of style will the Portuguese use in an attempt to tame the goalscoring juggernaut averaging 4 goals in the past 15 matches. Having accused West Ham United of playing a "19th century game," courtesy of their clean sheet at the Bridge in a 0-0 draw, and drawing allusion to a "parking the bus at the goal" cliché when he described Tottenham Hotspur's defensive style back in 2004, many are anxious to see what comes next from the special one! "It is very difficult to play a football match where only one team wants to play. Football matches are about two teams playing. ...this is football from the 19th Century," Mourinho said to the exasperation of West Ham manager Sam Allardyce. But in an earlier match described by many as "boring" against Arsenal that ended in a 0-0 draw, Chelsea used a similar defensive tactic to draw a valuable point. It seems certain that a tactic isn't valid for everyone. Whether Chelsea will go to the Etihad determined to match the firepower of the Man City outfit who're challenging on four fronts, or aiming for a point through a different style of play, remains to be seen.
With a home advantage, there is no doubt that Manuel Pellegrini's men will leave no stone unturned to revenge their earlier 2-1 loss at Stamford Bridge, when Fernando Torres scored a dramatic goal in the 89th minute to give the Blues a coveted victory and the manager "positive feelings." During the last season corresponding meeting however, Man City won by 2-0 with goals from Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure. A win on Monday will augment City's lead at the top to 56 points, four points clear from the second-placed Arsenal who play Crystal Palace on Sunday. A loss for Chelsea will leave Mourinho adrift with one point separating them from the fourth-placed Liverpool who're breathing down their necks with the Champions league spot at stake. The Merseyside club also have a game against West Bromwich on Sunday.
Man City have enjoyed the longest undefeated spell at home this season. They have lost only four matches in the league-both away to Chelsea, Cardiff City, Sunderland and Aston Villa. With a consistent run of form and a home advantage, it is fair to label Citizens of Manchester as 'champions-elect,' a description that the manager Manuel Pellegrini finds unsuitable. "I think it's too soon to be the favorites, there's a lot of matches to play," the Chilean said. But Chelsea can boast a record of being the only team in the Barclays league history to have won more matches at the Etihad. With Sergio Aguero's absence for a month following a hamstring injury, together with Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia, Alvaro Negredo who has recovered from a shoulder injury and Edin Dzeko will be key strikers in front of Chelsea's goal. The $33million summer signing Alvaro Negredo has been in a wonderful goalscoring form (23 goals in 33 appearances) this season. With many comparing him to the former Newcastle Utd great Alan Shearer, a win through him on Monday won't come as a surprise. Chelsea's Fernando Torres is the only absentee in a squad that presents choices for Mourinho, let alone a stellar defense that is probably the best in Europe this season.
The fifth round of the FA Cup will present a testy encounter for the two giants, savvying the knockout stages of Champions League in February. The mouthwatering February 15th meeting will present a rematch of the last semifinal when the Citizens defeated Rafael Benitez's Chelsea by 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on their road to the final. While Chelsea will have extra days of brainstorming before facing Galatasaray, Man City will play Barcelona on February 18th, three days after the FA Cup with chances of compromising the importance of one. Chelsea have grown accustomed to winning the FA Cup, three times in the last six years including the recent 2011-12 season. Winning on one occasion is ok, but winning on both competitions is simply a dominance of one over the other, an unacceptable result for Chelsea's manager adept in mind games and tactical changes pertinent to the weight of the game.
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