Mauricio Pochettino previews Man City clash
Chelsea head coach Mauricio Pochettino could not be blamed if he decided to field the same team that beat Tottenham 4-1 on Monday, but the issue of stopping Erling Haaland may change his thinking. The Norwegian has been in sensational form this season and will be itching to silence the home crowd after an anonymous display last season, but Pochettino might have a trick up his sleeve.
Despite the convincing scoreline, the Blues’ performance was less so, and a similar lacklustre performance against the Premier League champions won’t be accepted on Sunday.
City have been in spellbinding form and have only lost once in the league this season, with Haaland comfortably leading the goalscoring charts, while Chelsea have registered only one victory in 13 home games.
Even with six long-term injuries to contend with, Pochettino could make changes for Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge to keep Pep Guardiola guessing in the tactical battle. Express Sport looks at how the west London side could line up.
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Goalkeeper: Robert Sanchez
With no injury concerns about the Spaniard going into the match, it would take something to drastic to convince Pochettino to switch up his goalkeepers against the reigning champions.
Sanchez could do nothing about Dejan Kulusevski’s heavily-deflected opener as it ricocheted off Levi Colwill and bounced over the goal line.
But his vital save from Son Heung-man will only improve his position in Pochettino’s thinking ahead of Djordje Petrovic, who is still yet to make his debut.
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Defenders: Reece James, Axel Disasi, Benoit Badiashile, Levi Colwill
Pochettino confirmed in his press conference that James is fit to play despite turning down a call-up to the England squad after receiving medical advice from the club’s doctors. With that, he is likely to start but may not complete the entire 90 minutes, particularly if he is marking Jack Grealish or the rapid Jeremy Doku.
The Argentine has shown that he is a fan of keeping his lineup the same where possible but given Thiago Silva’s condition, Badiashile may be the ideal defender to keep tabs on Erling Haaland due to his pace and aerial prowess.
Colwill’s unconvincing display at left-back saw him replaced by Cucurella at half-time and the Spaniard impressed enough for Pochettino to praise his performance after the game. But Colwill’s height will help protect Chelsea at the far post, where Haaland loves to lurk, and he should keep his place. Wesley Fofana and Ben Chilwell remain long-term absentees, and Trevoh Chalobah is continuing his rehabilitation programme.
Midfielders: Conor Gallagher, Moises Caicedo, Enzo Fernandez
There are doubts as to whether Fernandez will be fit to play after he sustained a heavy knock from Cristian Romero’s red card challenge.
The 22-year-old was forced off in the second half after feeling pain in his foot and the midfield ace said he would “do everything” to ensure he can play. Lesley Ugochukwu will be standing by to deputise in the holding midfield role should the playmaker fail to prove his fitness.
Gallagher has played like a captain this season and the fact he can win the ball high up the pitch means he is a sure-fire favourite to make Pochettino’s XI. Romeo Lavia misses out against his former team as he awaits his debut, while Carney Chukwuemeka is still sidelined.
Forwards: Cole Palmer, Nicolas Jackson, Raheem Sterling
It should be the same front three that started against Spurs and tore apart their nine-man opponents that start against City with no injury concerns. Nicolas Jackson will lead the line from the front after his hat-trick at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, with Armando Broja back in the squad after recovering from a minor injury.
Palmer excelled in a role wide on the right and the 21-year-old is primed to face his former club again, while Sterling will be desperate to prove a point after being sold in a £47.5million deal in 2022.
Mykhaylo Mudryk is back to full fitness but the Ukrainian is set for the bench again. Christopher Nkunku is stiill a few weeks away from being fit enough for first-team action, although the Frenchman has begun training on the pitch.
Chelsea predicted XI to face Man City (4-3-3): Sanchez; James, Disasi, Badiashile, Cucurella; Fernandez, Caicedo, Gallagher; Palmer, Jackson, Sterling.
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