First real test for the Blues as they collide with star-studded City...Forging an Eastlands empire
Roberto Mancini currently stands at a crossroads in his career at the helm of England's richest club. This season the Italian must deliver unprecedented success with the Eastlands outfit or face being discarded at the first opportunity.
Mark Hughes' dismissal is testament to the ruthlessness that now pervades at the top of the Citizens hierachy, and after the transgression of being pipped to the Champions League last season, another stay of execution will not be afforded to Mancini should he miss this season's targets.
A humbling exit in the League Cup on Wednesday at the hands of West Bromwich means even more onus will now be put into success in the more important competitions. That City can dismiss that defeat and suggest it will help in their fight for the Premier League title is demonstrative of how the club is mixing it with the big boys now, and they will have to mix it with one of the biggest when champions Chelsea visit on Saturday.
Recent history is in favour of the light-blue billionaire's club in this fixture, with City beating Chelsea home and away last season, ending a run of eight successive defeats at the hands of the Londoners. However, Mancini will have to prepare his side to face a particularly lethal Blues side this time, with Carlo Ancelotti's men enjoying an exceptionally free-scoring run up to this game in the league.
The Citizens will have to rely on their impressive defence to shut out the Blues, and with only two goals conceded in their last five fixtures, will offer their opposition a sterner test than they have faced so far.
Old acquaintances, old rivals
How Mancini must have looked on in envy as he witnessed his compatriot Ancelotti move from the Italians' old battleground in Serie A and instantly claim success in the Premier League. It is believed that Mancio was keen on taking over the Stamford Bridge hotseat after Guus Hiddink's departure, but as fate would have it he pitched up further north, whilst his old Milan rival had already started winning on the route to winning trophies in London.
Ancelotti will be well aware of the tactical astuteness of the man in the opposition dugout on Saturday after years of sparring in the San Siro. And it is no doubt that City represent the first real test for the Blue juggernaut that has steamrolled over all opposition thrown in its path in the Premier League so far. 22 goals scored with only a single conceded leaves little doubt as to who is the Premier League's form team at the moment.
The club is firing on all pistons, but it is yet to be seen whether it can carry momentum into matches against the stronger sides and the Blues will have to do that to keep up their perfect league start with a sixth win. Certainly some momentum was lost when Chelsea, like their opponents this weekend, were sent crashing out of the League Cup at the hands of Newcastle inside Stamford Bridge.
But, much as Mancini excused City's exit in that competition, so did Ancelotti Chelsea's. This particular Italian tactician has the not inconsiderable task of defending the Premier League title and winning the Champions League this season, after — two feats that he will be quick to remind his old foe are not achievable at Manchester City just yet.
Mancini has voiced his concerns that the Citizens are facing an injury crisis ahead of Saturday's showdown. With Aleksandar Kolarov, Jerome Boateng and Wayne Bridge sidelined and Micah Richards struggling to recover from a hamstring injury, the Italian may face issues over who to station at left back.
In attack, Adebayor's continuing injury and Roque Santa Cruz's ineligibility mean the Citizens will again have to rely on Carlos Tevez and Jo as their only striker options for the match.
Possible starting XI: Hart, K.Toure, Zabaleta, Richards, Kompany, Barry, Milner, de Jong, Y.Toure, A.Johnson, Tevez.
Salomon Kalou and Yossi Benayoun both pulled up injured in Chelsea's defeat against Newcastle and both miss the trip to Eastlands.
However, Ancelotti will be boosted by the return to fitness of influential captain John Terry. Meanwhile, Frank Lampard hasn't recovered in time to feature, as revealed by Goal.com UK this week.
Confirmed starting XI: Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, A.Cole; Mikel, Essien, Ramires; Malouda Anelka, Drogba.
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