Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City host Chelsea this weekend as the race for the Premier League title hots up.
Title rivals Liverpool moved three points clear on Saturday with a win over Bournemouth, with City welcoming the Blues the following day.
Fellow title-chasers Tottenham Hotspur also play on Sunday at home to former Premier League champions Leicester City, with Mauricio Pochettino’s squad far from out of the hunt for league glory.
The Citizens know they will face a stern test at home against Maurizio Sarri’s men who are still in a race for a top four spot, with both Manchester United and Arsenal breathing down their necks.
This weekend could be key for all sides involved at the top of the table, making City’s match against Chelsea a must watch.
With the fixtures coming quick and fast, both City and Chelsea are making full use of their squad in its entirety. Guardiola left the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling on the bench in their midweek win away to Everton.
In regards to absentees, City will probably be without scintillating full-back Benjamin Mendy, club captain Vincent Kompany and second-choice goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who are all ruled out with respective injuries.
For Chelsea, they will be praying that talented defender Antonio Rudiger will be available for selection after he missed their 5-0 victory over Huddersfield last weekend with a knee injury.
How will the two sides line-up this Sunday? Here are some of the predictions.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel: sqwk.at/Squawka-Sub
1. De Bruyne returns to give old side the blues
Starting with our own prediction, we feel that former Chelsea midfielder De Bruyne will start the match at the heart of City’s midfield following his brief appearance at Goodison Park on Wednesday.
The Belgian was allowed to leave the Blues without being given a fair chance at establishing himself in the starting eleven. Since then De Bruyne’s made them regret the day they allowed him to leave Stamford Bridge.
With İlkay Gündoğan stepping in as City left Everton as table-toppers, Guardiola’s preference to rotate his squad will most likely occur again, with De Bruyne stepping in for the German international.
De Bruyne has spent a substantial amount of time on the sidelines this campaign, with City having to defend their title without the man who ran Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah so close as last season’s player of the year.
Now he is back, fit and ready to slot into Guardiola’s starting eleven once more as the reigning Premier League champions look to keep both Liverpool and Tottenham sweating at the top end of the table.
Predicted Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Laporte; Fernandinho; David Silva, De Bruyne; Sane, Aguero, Sterling.
For Chelsea, we feel that they will stick with the same formation and line-up to what demolished Huddersfield last week.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Jorginho; Kante, Barkley; Willian, Higuain, Hazard.
2. Laporte continues at left-back
The talented defender has adapted to life in the Premier League with ease. So much so that Guardiola has complete faith in using the Frenchman at left-back in the absence of Mendy who has struggled with injuries since joining the club at the beginning of last season.
Laporte was the man of the moment midweek as his bullet header gave City a vital lead on the stroke of half-time against Everton.
Despite having both Danilo and Fabian Delph available, the Express believe the 24-year-old will continue to occupy the left side of City’s defence this weekend, which will come up against a talented Chelsea attack.
3. Bye bye Barkley
Chelsea’s 5-0 victory over a struggling Huddersfield Town is nothing to sneer at. Their performance was professional, precise and clinical as they netted five goals, including two for new striker Gonzalo Higuaín.
Barkley – who has finally flourished in west London under the guidance of Sarri – bagged himself an assist in the match against the Terriers but may not have done enough to bag himself a place in Chelsea’s starting line-up on Sunday.
At least, according to the Evening Standard, who believe that the England international will have to be content with a place on the bench, with loanee Mateo Kovačić stepping into his place as Chelsea try and field a more defensive team.
4. Sterling invaluable
The former Liverpool youngster has transformed into a world-class playmaker for Guardiola.
From playing the vast majority of last season, throughout England’s successful World Cup campaign and into this season, Raheem Sterling has needed a rest every now and again, something Guardiola has granted.
His absence from the starting XI against Everton was telling. City weren’t as clinical compared to when the 24-year-old plays, missing a host of chances and failing to create the perfect opening for the majority of the 90 minutes.
However, according to the Independent – and most publications for that fact – they believe that Sterling will make a return to the starting line-up this weekend against the Blues, with his ability simply too good to leave out.
The Independent predicted line-ups:
Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Danilo; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, D. Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Chelsea: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho; Kante, Kovacic; Willian, Higuain, Hazard