Chelsea vs Manchester City Preview

English FA Cup | Sunday 21 February | Stamford Bridge | 18:00




Chelsea will host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in the fifth-round of the FA Cup in what should serve up a thrilling spectacle. The Blues are unbeaten in their last five home meetings with City having won three times. Chelsea lifted the FA Cup five times since the turn of the century while City have won the competition just once in 2011. 




To Win (90mins)
Chelsea 21/20
Draw 5/2
Man City 5/2

Chelsea


Chelsea eased to a 5-1 victory over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge, in what was a performance of old from the defending Premier League champions. A Pedro double, plus goals for Diego Costa, Willian and Bertrand Traore stretched their unbeaten run to 12 games, with 11 of those under interim boss Guus Hiddink. In Manchester City, Chelsea have been given one of the most difficult draws available in the FA Cup fifth round. 

Hiddink has described the tie as a final and will know that his players need to give their best. Manuel Pellegrini's side thrashed the defending Premier League champions 3-0 at the Etihad earlier this season, and Chelsea will be desperate for revenge. Hiddink sees the FA Cup as a way of salvaging a hugely underwhelming campaign for the Premier League champions. The Dutchman, who led Chelsea to the trophy in his first spell with the club in 2009, is determined to take the competition seriously. In the third round, the Blues ousted League One side Scunthorpe 2-0, thanks to goals from Costa and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. They then cruised to a 5-1 victory at MK Dons in the fourth round, courtesy of an Oscar hat-trick. The Blues have looked a lot like their old selves in recent weeks and will be confident of victory here. 

However, Hiddink has some concerns in defence with Kurt Zouma ruled out for the season, while captain John Terry remains a doubt with a hamstring injury. If Terry is passed fit, he is likely to partner Gary Cahill at the heart of defence. If he doesn’t, Branislav Ivanovic could move to centre-back with Cesar Azpilicueta switching to right-back and Baba Rahman coming in at left-back. New £3.5m signing Matt Miazga, who joined from New York Red Bulls last month, is another option Hiddink could look at. In midfield, Nemanja Matic will provide defensive cover, while Cesc Fabregas will add creativity and dynamism. Hiddink has a vast number of options in the front three, with Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Pedro and Kenedy. Alexandre Pato is only expected to make his debut when the Premier League resumes next weekend. Costa will spearhead the attack and look to exploit City’s defensive frailties. The Brazilian-born Spanish striker has scored eight goals in his last 10 games.  



Manchester City

Pellegrini was left furious after City’s FA Cup tie with Chelsea was rescheduled five days after Chelsea's Champions League clash in Paris, and just three days before City's game in Kiev. And Pellegrini has said he will play a weakened team as a result. However, consecutive losses to title rivals Leicester and Tottenham might change the Chilean’s mind. Chelsea are rejuvenated under Hiddink and any weakened City side is likely to come up second best, especially at Stamford Bridge. 

This will be City’s third away match in the competition and both came against Premier League opposition. In the third round, City defeated Norwich City 3-0 at Carrow Road thanks to goals from Sergio Aguero, Kelechi Iheanacho and Kevin De Bruyne. That performance was followed up by a 4-0 thrashing of Aston Villa with Iheanacho netting a hat-trick in that match. The young striker, 19, has been tipped for a big future since helping his native Nigeria win the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup. Iheanacho scored in last weekend’s 2-1 defeat against Spurs and is likely to start against the Premier League champions. City’s list of enforced absentees are Fabian Delph, Bacary Sagna, De Bruyne, Jesus Navas, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony. 

If Pellegrini decides to make his team even weaker, they will have an uphill battle. Vincent Kompany has returned from his long injury layoff and with concerns about his fitness, he should start in defence. Big, strong and powerful, he gets himself in the way of the ball so often that it’s almost taken for granted. A complete defender in every way and with Costa in red-hot form, City need their captain to marshal the backline. Despite the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure and Aguero struggling in recent weeks, City need them to have any chance of progressing to quarter-finals.  

Probable line-ups:

Chelsea: 4-2-3-1 
Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Rahman; Matic, Fabregas; Pedro, Hazard, Willian; Costa

Manchester City: 4-2-3-1

Caballero; Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Clichy; Fernando, Fernandinho; Toure, Silva, Sterling; Iheanacho

Betting Verdict: Chelsea (21/20)
Chelsea look back to their best and are unbeaten in 12 games at the time of writing. City haven’t beaten the Blues in their last five attempts at Stamford Bridge. Hiddink’s side are playing with confidence and even if City field their first team, I’m still confident in backing them for victory.  

Written by Chadley Nagel