Arguably the top teams in the country square off when Man City host Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday (17:15 GMT, live on ITV1).
City come into the match on the back of a draw and a defeat in their last two fixtures, but were on a 20-match unbeaten run prior to that and are still very much in the Premier League title race, in third with 54 points from 17 wins, three draws and five defeats.
Last year’s losing finalists secured their place in the fifth round of this year’s FA Cup with high-scoring home victories over Championship sides Blackburn Rovers and Watford. In the latter match, City were two goals down early on but rallied to score four goals in the final half hour of play, with Sergio Aguero netting a hat-trick.
Man City have certainly not found goals hard to come by this season, having scored well over 100 in all competitions. They have a good mix of invention (David Silva, Samir Nasri), pace (Jesus Navas), power (Alvaro Negredo, Edin Dzeko) and trickery (Aguero) in the final third, while Fernandinho and Yaya Toure offer a further threat from deeper in midfield.
Manuel Pellegrini likes his sides to play attractive attacking football and despite some problems in defence, results have generally been excellent, with City’s attacking prowess allowing them to overcome the large majority of teams. They are still alive in all four competitions they entered at the start of the season.
Pellegrini will definitely be without the injured Aguero (hamstring), Fernandinho (thigh) and Nasri (knee) for this match, while Matija Nastasic (knee) and Javi Garcia (knock) are both back in training but unlikely to be involved just yet.
Chelsea come into Saturday’s match on the back of 12 matches undefeated in all competitions, but were slightly disappointed to pick up only a point from their trip to West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday. They do, nevertheless, top the Premier League table, a point clear of Arsenal in second with 57 points from 17 wins, six draws and three defeats.
The seven-time FA Cup winners secured their place in the fifth round of this year’s competition with victories over Derby County and Stoke City. The latter tie was a relatively stodgy affair, with Chelsea labouring to break down a determined visiting defence and only doing so thanks to a moment of set-piece magic from Oscar.
The Blues did not concede in either of those fixtures and the tightening of their defensive unit has certainly played a part in their recent good form. Jose Mourinho’s decision to employ a dedicated holding player – first David Luiz or Jon Obi Mikel, then new signing Nemanja Matic – in front of the defence has seen them concede just three times in their last 12 matches.
In attack, Eden Hazard’s (pictured above) tremendous season continued with a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory over Newcastle last weekend, while the industry of Willian has also impressed. Samuel Eto’o has carved out a place for himself in the side with intelligent movement and good link play, the latter illustrated by his superb assist for Hazard’s second goal in the win over Newcastle.
Mourinho will definitely be without long-term injury absentee Marco Van Ginkel (knee) for this, but Gary Cahill (calf) and John Terry (muscle) are both expected to be passed fit.
Man City v Chelsea Betting Tips Advice
Chelsea have emerged victorious from each of the previous two meetings between these sides this season, winning 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and 1-0 away at the Etihad earlier this month, but did lose to Man City in last season’s FA Cup semi-final. There have been five wins for City, four for Chelsea and one draw in their last 10 meetings in all competitions.
City will have one eye on the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Barcelona next week and are likely to rest a number of their regular first team players with that in mind. They have an excellent home record and a talented squad, but Chelsea have already shown that they are not unbeatable at the Etihad.
Chelsea have no particular reason to rest players with a full week until their next fixture. With good defensive organisation and numerous threats on the counter attack they will be relatively confident of repeating their league success and progressing to the last eight of the FA Cup.
- Back Chelsea +0.5 on an Asian Handicap @ best odds of 14/19 with BetVictor. The bet pays out if Chelsea win or draw.
- Chelsea have conceded just four first half goals in their 13 away matches in the league so far this season and with Man City missing their top scorer Aguero and likely to rest a few other regular first team players, we fancy the Blues to keep the home side scoreless in the first half. Back Chelsea to keep a 1st half clean sheet @ 17/20 with Ladbrokes.