Potter and Guardiola will do battle for the second time in the space of just 4 days when the Blues travel to the Eithad to take on City in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. Thursday night’s clash finished 1-0 in favour of today’s hosts, but to the surprise of many, Chelsea put in arguably one of their most encouraging performances to date under Potter, running the reigning Premier League Champions close. Youthful exuberance is likely to be needed again here, with upwards of ten players on the treatment table for Chelsea. Guardiola meanwhile, will be hoping for a much easier outing than his team were afforded on Thursday.
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City are expected to revert back to type here, and begin this one with the shape that closed out Thursday night’s clash, as opposed to the one that started it. That means a flat back 4, with Rico Lewis coming in to play in his hybrid right-back/central midfield role.
Elsewhere, match winners Jack Grealish and Riyad Mahrez are expected to be given the nod from the start in order to work their magic early doors. They’ll likely flank World Cup winner Julian Alvarez, who should be given the nod for this cup tie in place of Erling Haaland.
Graham Potter’s hand is somewhat forced when it comes to team selection, with Chelsea just a centre back injury short of a full starting XI on the sidelines.
Carney Chukwuemeka should start, with Trevoh Chalobah likely to replace Thiago Silva at the back, giving the 38 year old a much needed rest. Aubameyang was subbed on, and then off again against City earlier this week, and the forward will be keen to show more from the first whistle this time around.
Although not suspected to start, there could be more minutes for Lewis Hall and Omari Hutchinson, with new signings Benoit Badiashile and Datro Fofana potentially making the bench.
To the surprise of very few, City are the Premier League’s top scorers, and despite the expectation that Guardiola will make multiple changes to his lineup, it shouldn’t impact their firepower in any way. 17.53 shots P/90 has City sat comfortably at the top of the pile in this metric, and they’ll likely carry this fluidity and quality into their FA Cup tie.
Teams have often struggled to put City under pressure this season, and with just 1.06 cards per game to their name, it’s clear that they’ve been relatively clean in their defensive duels, and that opposition are struggling to make their most of their counters. The corner stats would suggest the same, with only 2.18 conceded P/90.
Chelsea have been massively underperforming by their own standards this season. Injuries have of course played their part, but 1.18 goals per game, and an xG of 1.50 P/90 (a stat matched by an equally poor xGA of 1.50 P/90), just simply isn’t good enough for a side looking to get Champions League football.
Discipline has been an issue for Chelsea, and their 2.36 cards per game is perhaps evidence of the often nervy finishes to their matches. The fact that they also draw so few cards is worrying, and suggests that Potter’s side really lack a forward with serious drive and pace who can force opposition defenders into uncomfortable situations.
Player Shots and Shots on Target
Very few sides in top European leagues can boast the embarrassment of riches that City have. Their quality is evidenced by the fact that they have 5 players averaging over a shot on target P/90. Haaland of course tops that list with 2.13, but is expected to makeway for Julian Alvarez, who provides a similarly potent option in the shots markets, with 1.47 P/90.
Elsewhere, midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne is averaging 2.89 shots P/90, more than everyone save for Haaland in the City squad. He’ll be another one worth watching for shots, and has so often been a thorn in the side of Chelsea.
Chelsea have largely struggled in front of goal this season, and shots on target haven’t necessarily been forthcoming. Havertz tops the pile with 1.01 P/90, and is perhaps Chelsea’s best route to forcing the keeper into a save on Sunday.
Teenager Carney Chukwuemeka is likely to be given more game time here, and could well try his luck from range if given the space. He managed 2 shots against City on Thursday, hitting the post with 1 of them, and is averaging 2.27 P/90.
Player Goals and Assists
Of course, it’s that man Erling Haaland who tops the goalscoring charts for City. His blank against Chelsea in midweek means that he still finds himself on 21 goals, and even without him in the side, there’s plenty of firepower elsewhere.
Julian Alvarez could be the most likely culprit for City in front of goal, with 3 to his name in what have been largely cameo appearances. De Bruyne once again could be the major threat here, and his 3 goals and 9 assists must be taken note of.
In what is an embarrassing statistic to say the least, Chelsea (20), have scored less goals as a team than Erling Haaland has scored himself in the Premier League this season. Kai Havertz and Raheem Sterling top the charts for the Blues with 4 each, and with Sterling out, the weight could well fall onto the German’s shoulders.
Jorginho once again finds himself towards the top of the Chelsea goalscoring charts, and the Italian penalty king will surely be the one to take a spot kick if such a situation arises. Not a lot else can be said about Chelsea’s goalscoring exploits, and it’s difficult to find many positives when 38 year old centre back Thiago Silva has the joint most assists for the club with 2.
The Man City passing statistics are quite frankly staggering at first glance. Central midifielder Rodri tops the Premier League charts for total passes, and is always a solid shout, but Guardiola is expected to rotate him out in order to afford some minutes to Kalvin Phillips on Sunday.
The difference in position was much closer than many expected on Thursday night, with City having just 52% of the ball compared to their 66% average. John Stones managed 89 passes that night, more than any other City player.
Chelsea are largely a possession based team themselves, although to a much lesser extent than City. 48% against a Guardiola side will breed some confidence, and should afford the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly plenty of time to rack up a decent number of passes. He too, managed 89 against City on Thursday.
Mateo Kovacic is another who largely pulled the strings for Chelsea in midweek, and is a solid shout for over 50 if he does start. The Croatian averages 70 passes P/90. The full back areas are also heavily utilised, with both Azpilicueta and Cucurella featuring in the top 5 for passes P/90 amongst the Chelsea squad.
Manchester City Cards
City certainly aren’t the most prolific side when it comes to fouls as their 1.06 cards per game average would suggest, but there are players that are still worth keeping an eye on. Joao Cancelo is perhaps the standout, and the Portuguese fullback has averaged 0.91 fouls P/90, with a total of 4 cards to his name.
The combative Bernardo Silva and the lumbering Manuel Akanji will also be worth a watch in their respective duels, but a name not seen on the graphic that could be of interest in Kalvin Phillips. The English midfielder has played very little football this season, and it will be intriguing to see as to how he handles the pace of this game.
Chelsea do lack forwards with the ability to force fouls out of opposition defenders, but Hakim Ziyech stands out as one who may be able to fit the bill. Despite a lack of pace, the crafty Moroccan draws 2.97 fouls P/90, and should cause Cancelo problems.
In the midfield, Connor Gallagher will surely get some change out of his City counterparts if afforded some game time, whilst Jorginho’s uncanny ability to win fouls could make for an interesting battle against the rusty Kalvin Phillips. Carney Chukwuemeka is another name of note, and the youngsters 1.54 fouls drawn P/90 could cause problems for Rico Lewis.
Match-Ups to watch
Joao Cacelo vs Hakim Ziyech
Kalvin Phillips vs Jorginho
Rico Lewis vs Carney Chukuwuemeka
The number of cards received by Chelsea this season is evidence of the way they’ve been playing. Frantic and nervy affairs have often led to a number of fouls, and the Blues have multiple players that have been guilty of various offences throughout the season. Koulibaly is perhaps the most likely culprit for a card of those expected to start, with the Senegalese defender committing 1.52 fouls P/90.
Cesar Azpilicueta isn’t getting any younger, and the Chelsea captain’s dwindling pace should be a worry for Potter. 1.62 fouls P/90 is a hefty average, and with the amount quality that City possess, he could be in for a long afternoon.
Jack Grealish is the exact player that could force fouls out of Azpilicueta. He’s the most fouled player in the City squad P/90, with an average of 3.29 fouls drawn. HIs 4.02 dribbles P/90 could give the Spaniard a nightmare. If not Grealish, then Azpilicueta’s likely battle with Phil Foden or Cole Palmer is well worth watching.
Riyad Mahrez is another who came on and caused significant damage to Chelsea on Thursday, and the Algerian will be looking to present similar problems to either Marc Cucurella or Lewis Hall come Sunday afternoon.
Match-Ups to watch
Cesar Azpilicueta vs Jack Grealish
Kalidou Koulibaly vs Julian Alvarez
Marc Cucurella vs Riyad Mahrez