Manchester City have a need for speed
Lightning-fast, early pressing represents Man City's best chance of success
Take a walk in Raheem Sterling's boots for a moment.
The Manchester City striker was racially abused at Burnley last weekend.
Not officially, of course, the nasty, targeted vitriol was more subtle than the usual poison spat out by the knuckle-draggers.
Whenever he headed to the touchline, he got the middle finger from the home crowd.
Whenever he touched the ball, he endured the same chant.
You let your country down.
The Burnley fans were referring to Sterling's poor performances at Euro 2016, but those same supporters spared Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana when Liverpool recently went to Turf Moor.
Only Sterling suffered, so much so that embarrassed Burnley fans were compelled to apologise on social media.
“It’s a game we need to win to be taken even more seriously and make a statement. They are playing great football, scoring lots of goals and conceding very few, but we are focused and the manager is getting us prepared.” Raheem Sterling
Sterling is a wealthy, talented young black man with a penchant for wearing a bit of bling in his Instagram photos and that's just too much to take for certain folks.
So he gets booed like no other. And in recent weeks, the booing has intensified.
It was easier last season, when Sterling was a high-priced flop at City. He titillated his critics. Now he's starting to terrify them. Sterling is at serious risk of becoming the footballer he always promised to be.
As his potential morphs into consistent pedigree, the winger represents City's greatest hope of beating Chelsea tonight.
Sergio Aguero brings the world-class credentials, but Sterling brings the pace.
The 21-year-old has already knocked in five goals and conjured more touches (111) in the opponents' box than any other EPL player.
CONTE RINGS CHANGES
The Etihad stage is set for a commanding performance because City's need for speed has never been greater.
Even Antonio Conte acknowledges that his switch to a 3-4-3 was out of desperation rather than design.
Liverpool and particularly Arsenal had ruthlessly exposed Chelsea's ageing tortoises.
A static, cumbersome back four was quickly overrun, forcing the Blues boss to take drastic action.
The remarkable run of seven victories since, with only a goal conceded, is testament to Conte's tinkering and his infectious enthusiasm in the camp.
Last season's sulking brooders are now battering rams of enterprise and artistry, with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in particular scampering around like a couple of puppies eager to please their new master.
But Chelsea's fledgling empire is rather like the Death Star and its exhaust port.
On the surface, the Blues appear impregnable. But if a scrappy, nifty, little fighter carves himself a trench to operate, the results could be explosive. Sterling represents the kid in the cockpit ready to take a one-in-a-million shot.
His odds are undeniably slim - and Sterling must still shake off a knock he picked up at Burnley - but fast, early pressing is still Man City's best chance of success.
In Sterling, Aguero, Nolito and Leroy Sane, City boast the kind of lightning rods that Chelsea have so far evaded.
So it would be fitting, perhaps, for Sterling to have the final word after an abhorrent week for English football.
Subjected to vile abuse last weekend, he was the bigger man at Turf Moor.
Now he needs to be the bigger footballer at the Etihad.