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WhoScored: Cesc driving Chelsea on

Tactics And Analysis 9 hours ago
Read
Dec 3, 2009

ESPN Soccernet Preview: Man City v Chelsea

• Live on ESPN at 1700 GMT

The "hysteria" Manchester City manager Mark Hughes decried after their seventh straight Premier League draw will no doubt intensify if his former club Chelsea become the first team to leave Eastlands with all three points on Saturday evening.

Given the lavish spending spree that helped secure a dazzling array of talent over the summer, Hughes and City were always likely to be a target for criticism, but if they are to realise their dream of breaking into the top four the likes of Hull, Fulham and Burnley must be despatched on home soil. The visit of table-topping Chelsea will be an acid test of City's Champions League credentials.

Carlo Ancelotti has had a smooth start to life in the English top flight and takes his Chelsea side to Manchester on the back of five Premier League wins in a row, a run in which both Manchester United and Arsenal were vanquished.

Back-to-back away defeats at Wigan and Aston Villa offered the possibility the Blues could be a soft touch away from home, especially from set pieces, but those question marks were eradicated by emphatic and classy victories at the Reebok against Bolton, and at the Emirates last Sunday.

Manchester City player in focus: Joleon Lescott. His protracted move from Everton, and the exorbitant price City eventually paid for him, meant the spotlight was always going to be trained on Lescott's early season form. In 11 games for his new club Lescott has been part of a defence that has kept only two clean sheets and much more has been expected of the 27-year-old's partnership with Kolo Toure, given that they arrived at a combined cost of £38 million. The former Wolves defender will be tested to the limit against Chelsea's wealth of attacking talent.

Chelsea player in focus: Didier Drogba. Like a fine red wine, Drogba seems to get better with age. His 11 goals in 13 Premier League games so far mean he has already more than doubled his tally from last season, and his forcible demolition of Arsenal's meek defence at the Emirates made for irresistible viewing, unless you are the aforementioned Joleon Lescott of course. Drogba is the epitome of an all-action Premier League centre forward and is just as likely to provide goals as score them himself.

Key battle: Gareth Barry vs. Frank Lampard. These England team-mates know each other's game inside out, having operated in the centre of the park for the majority of Fabio Capello's reign. Their club briefs have fallen even closer into line this season as Lampard has gradually adapted to Ancelotti's preferred diamond formation. Their match instructions are likely to be similar, to break up play in their own half while getting forward to support any attacking forays into the opposition half.

Tactics: Whoever their opponents are, City like to attack them. Mark Hughes is likely to make only one change from the side that thumped Arsenal in the Carling Cup, with Robinho coming in for Craig Bellamy. The City boss prefers a 4-4-2 formation with Wright-Phillips and Robinho on the flanks, Stephen Ireland roaming in midfield and Barry shoring things up in front of his back four. Chelsea will stick with the diamond formation that has paid dividends so far this season with Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka pushing up in support of Drogba. Michael Essien and Michael Ballack provide the midfield steel.

Quotes: Chelsea assistant boss Ray Wilkins on Ancelotti: "Carlo is very knowledgeable on the game, he has dealt with the players fantastically on a personal basis and you are seeing the rewards of that. He is a really funny guy, always joke telling, but when it comes to team talks, they are different, that is business." Mark Hughes on the reaction to City's run of draws: "There is a little bit of hysteria around at the moment. It becomes predictable because we are being judged on the amount of money we have spent. Every team of mine is stronger in the second half of the season and I am convinced that will be the case again because of the quality and strength in depth we have."

In the news: Mark Hughes has criticised Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for refusing to shake his hand after City's 3-0 Carling Cup win over the Gunners on Wednesday. The two managers clashed in the first half when Hughes strayed into Wenger's technical area and after the game, the Frenchman headed straight down the tunnel. When quizzed about it Wenger sarcastically replied, ''I have no professional courtesy'' while Hughes said his opposite number needed to be "more gracious" in defeat.

Manchester City team news: Shaun Wright-Phillips came off with a calf strain in City's midweek win over Arsenal but should be fit to start against his former club. Craig Bellamy and Stephen Ireland both picked up knee injuries are are doubtful but Nigel de Jong snd Martin Petrov could return.

Chelsea team news: Carlo Ancelotti made seven changes for the Blues' Carling Cup defeat with Blackburn, but lost Salomon Kalou with a groin injury. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and Ashley Cole are all likely to return, but Alex is still sidelined. Jose Bosingwa will be out until January with a knee injury.

Probable Manchester City line-up (4-4-2): Given, Lescott, Toure, Bridge, Richards, Barry, Ireland, Robinho, Wright-Phillips, Adebayor, Tevez.

Probable Chelsea line-up (4-5-1): Cech, Terry, Carvalho, Cole, Ivanovic, Lampard, Ballack, Malouda, Essien, Anelka, Drogba.

Soccernet prediction: City will come out all guns blazing on Saturday after they got back to winning ways against Arsenal. They will be confident of finding the net but Chelsea's supreme form of late means another score draw at Eastlands is the most likely result.

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