Dietmar Hamann: Expect Chelsea to 'park the bus' against Man City
CHELSEA v MAN CITY
(Tomorrow, 1.30am, Singtel TV Ch 102 & StarHub TV Ch 227)
GARY LIM: This is a highly anticipated top-of-the-table clash. Are you expecting a cracker of a match?
HAMANN: I expect Man City to dominate possession. Chelsea are just going to play on the counter-attack.
They have a five-point lead at the top of the table, so they can afford to play for a draw, especially since Diego Costa is suspended after being found guilty of violent conduct yesterday and if the injured Fabregas doesn't recover in time to play.
I can't see City catching up if Chelsea can avoid defeat and improve or maintain their five-point advantage.
This is why I expect Jose Mourinho will set up his team not to lose.
They will let City run the game and try to get a goal on the counter-attack.
Mourinho is a master at getting results in key matches like this.
So don't expect to see a lot of goals. It will be a low-scoring match.
The clash at Stamford Bridge has been touted as a title-decider, despite the fact that there're 15 more matches to be played after tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) game. Do you agree with that view?
If Chelsea win, then it's game over for City. An eight-point gap will be simply too much for City to overturn.
And Manuel Pellegrini's men aren't playing brilliant football at the moment.
Don't forget, City will have to play the first of two legs against Barcelona next month in the Champions League knock-out round.
How will the absence of key players hurt both teams?
If Fabregas does not recover in time, it will be a huge blow to Chelsea.
If you ask me, the Spaniard is their best player, the heart of the side.
The Blues will miss him more than the suspended Costa.
In my opinion, Fabregas is an even better player than Eden Hazard, because his presence improves everyone in his team.
Hazard is a more individual player. He is a brilliant talent.
But Fabregas is the vital cog in the Chelsea machine.
You just have to see how much better the team are playing this season after he joined the club from Barcelona.
City are missing some big names too.
Yaya Toure, who is away on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the African Nations Cup, is a player who can turn a game on his own, so City will miss his drive and dynamism in midfield.
The same can be said of Samir Nasri.
Having said that, the absence of Fabregas and Costa will cost Chelsea more.
They are heavily reliant on the duo while I think City have strength in depth to replace Toure and Nasri.
Also, City need to win this match more than Chelsea, who will be happy with a draw.
Much will depend on how the two managers set up their teams.
Do you agree with the way Mourinho defended Costa for the stamp on Liverpool's Emre Can?
It's not a good move by Mourinho.
You can tell that Costa knew what he was doing. I don't know how Mourinho can defend something like that.
But it's not the first time he has done something like this.
The only reason I can think of is that he's using this to tell his players that there's a conspiracy campaign against them and, hopefully, that will rally his players against City.
Man City will surely be going all out for a win. What must they be wary of?
City are going to have the lion's share of the possession.
But they need to watch out for Nemanja Matic, who is an excellent player in front of the Chelsea back four.
He has superb awareness, positioning, strength and tackling ability.
City cannot afford to lose the ball in midfield, because Chelsea have the qualities to capitalise on the transition.
FIXTURES THIS WEEKEND
- Hull City v Newcastle United
- Man United v Leicester City
- Liverpool v West Ham
- West Brom v Tottenham
- Crystal Palace v Everton
- Stoke City v QPR
- Sunderland v Burnley
- Chelsea v Man City
- Arsenal v Aston Villa
- Southampton v Swansea
Three-match ban might Costa Blues
Chelsea enter the Premier League title bout with Manchester City tomorrow morning (Singapore time) without Diego Costa after the striker was banned for three matches for violent conduct.
The Football Association has announced that an independent regulatory commission ruled that Costa (above) deliberately stamped on the ankle of Liverpool's Emre Can in Tuesday's League Cup semi-final second leg.
Costa, who contested the charge, and Chelsea have no right to appeal, meaning that the player is out of matches with City, Aston Villa and Everton.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho claimed the incident, which occurred in front of the dugouts but was missed by the match officials, was "absolutely accidental", a view which had the full support of the club.
The incident was subsequently reviewed on video by referee Michael Oliver, with the charge following on Wednesday as part of the FA's fast-tracked procedures.
Mourinho cancelled his usual pre-match media conference yesterday after Costa's charge and his own £25,000 ($51,000) fine for stating last month that there was a "clear campaign" against Chelsea.
The ban for the Brazil-born Spain striker is only likely to strengthen the Blues boss' view.
The absence of Costa, who has scored 17 times in 19 Premier League appearances, is a major blow for Chelsea.
The ban prompted Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini to ask Costa to change his game.
The Chilean said: "He has his character, it is not an easy character, but I hope for him that (with) this punishment - and I am not trying to take advantage for the game - it will be a good thing for him to change in the future because he doesn't need to do it in that way because he is a very good player, a top player."
Eden Hazard outlined just what Chelsea would miss, telling chelseafc.com: "He's one of the top strikers in the world. He's a proper number nine.
"He's a really friendly guy off the pitch. On it, he's a good professional and he gives everything for the team.
"He's an unbelievable striker because he can score at any time."
Hazard could shoulder the goalscoring burden in Costa's absence, with Didier Drogba, who has scored six times this season, likely to be given the lone striker's role ahead of Loic Remy.
Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), Filipe Luis (calf) and Branislav Ivanovic (foot) are doubts.
Gary Cahill is expected to be a substitute once more, with Kurt Zouma continuing in defence. - PA Sport.
Cuadrado agrees terms with Chelsea
Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado has agreed personal terms with Chelsea, the Italian club's coach Vincenzo Montella confirmed last night.
As part of the deal, Chelsea's Mohamed Salah moves in the opposite direction on loan till the end of the season.
Montella admitted that he did not want to sell the Colombian forward, but Chelsea's offer was too attractive.
He said: "Honestly, it was something that had to be done. As a coach, I'm disappointed, but on a pragmatic level, the fee is so high that it's worth it."
The Colombian has already agreed terms with the Premier League leaders and the clubs are concluding the move.
The total fee, with add-ons, could eventually reach £26.8m ($54.8m)- which matches Cuadrado's release clause. The 26-year-old could face Man City tomorrow morning (Singapore time). - Wire Services.