The biggest match in Gameweek 13 brings 3rd against 4th as Pep Guardiola’s wounded animal take on Lampard’s resurgent Chelsea team. Last week City were humbled by Liverpool and you get the sense if they lose this match it is a long way back in the title race. Not buying a centre half when Vincent Kompany left the club in the summer has been a huge error of judgement in my opinion and it wouldn’t surprise me if a deal is being worked on already for January. Pep has just got to manage that fire till he can get a reinforcement in.
Chelsea on the whole have been improving and Lampard has performed much better than I anticipated. I was of the opinion that Chelsea could potentially struggle but they’ve surprised me. Lampard has set his team up to attack and whilst I expect that this will not change when they go to the Etihad I do expect that they may not be as attacking as usual.
What Chelsea have in abundance is pacey, technically gifted players and with City’s defensive issues I expect that whoever is selected out of Pulisic, Willian, Hudson-Odoi or Mount will give that backline nightmares. They also have a striker who is finally realising his potential in Tammy Abraham, this Chelsea side despite having is vulnerabilities is full of attacking promise.
The stats set this up nicely for an attacking game so you know that means a snoozefest 0-0 is on the way. Manchester City have averaged per game 2.79 goals, an xG of 2.34, averaged 17 shots with 39% of those managing to hit the target. Chelsea have so far on average managed 1.99 goals per game, 1.86 xG, 15 shots on target with 38% of those finding the target.
Defensively Manchester City and Chelsea both have issues conceding 13 and 17 goals respectively. Chelsea are second in the away league table with 5 wins and one loss, however despite their impressive form they are still yet to keep a clean sheet on the road.
The Tactics – City
City have to win this match, if they lose they could be 12 points behind and I think that would be them done in the title race. With Bernardo being out for his one match suspension Guardiola faces an interesting dilemma with his team selection. Bernardo usually occupies the right wing with his wide playmaker role so what will Pep do? He has options, Namely Mahrez or Foden.
Mahrez is the obvious choice for me, although he does not offer the same playmaking abilities that Bernardo offers. Mahrez hit a little bit of form early in the season but then found himself back on the bench for The Champions. Mahrez offers a little bit more directness, although he has much more propensity to cut inside. I think that may be why we do not see Mahrez, Sterling and Aguero all on the field together at once as that would make City’s attack very narrow. Bernardo is much more willing to play wider when needed and push the defensive line back with his runs creating the space for Kevin De Bruyne to operate in.
Another option is the young talent of Phil Foden, he usually operates out on the left for City or in a central role. However he has spent time occupying the right hand side for England so he can play there. He is probably closer player to Bernardo than Mahrez is and would mean less disruption to City’s tactical plan.
As you can see from the passing map from the Albania u21 vs England u21 Foden played on the right hand side. He was able to find the inside passes quite easily, however he did not register a single accurate cross from 10 attempts. Given the level of opposition it was not the greatest performance even though he got a goal and an assist. He will have been disappointed with his delivery and for that reason we may not see him on the right versus Chelsea.
The rest of the city team I expect will line up much the same and will be looking to Kevin De Bruyne for creativity. KDB has gone 3 games without a goal involvement prior to the international break and will be looking to get involved.
Lampard has opted to use two main systems so far this season, he has a opted for a 4-3-3 when wanting to be a slightly more defensive and a 4-2-3-1 when wanting to attack. I expect that against City the 4-3-3 will be utilised.
The midfield 2 or 3 has varied, Kovacic and Jorginho have played a large portion of minutes together as N’golo Kante has suffered with fitness issues this season. Kante’s sporadic appearances may also have had an affect on the system Lampard has opted to choose. Kante started against Moldova for France so he is fit but Lampard also has Mount and Barkley to call upon for the central midfield roles.
Up front it will be Abraham and I would expect that Pulisic will be fit to start, the American has found some form before the break and Lampard will be keen for him to keep the momentum going. He has 5 goals in his last 5 games.
As you can see from Pulisic’s seasons shot map he is Getting into the box fairly easily. Chelsea will be hoping that they can utilise his ability to dribble with the ball. He is extremely effective when receiving the ball on the counter attack. Chelsea will feel that with Manchester City’s defensive frailties they have the weapons to get at them.
I think that Lampard has an interesting dilemma on where to deploy Mason Mount, he can operate out wide or centrally. I think Lampard may choose to put him more centrally and opt for Willian as part of his front 3.
I think whoever wins the midfield battle will come out on top. Both teams like to see their fair share of the ball with Chelsea averaging just short of 60% possession per game and City averaging just over 62%. However I do feel that Chelsea do have all the tools to hit this City side on the counter attack and do some real damage.
The match could easily go either way, both teams love to attack and both teams are not the best at defending. That is why I feel whichever team retains possession the best will be the likely victor.