PREVIEW: City v Chelsea

bruceshout

And here comes a biggie. A test for City that may be unlike any other at the KC this season, as one of the genuine superpowers visits us while on a spot of form and looking the real deal. And yet there is plenty about City right now that suggests Chelsea won’t have it easy tomorrow.

Chelsea aren’t anywhere like the finished article – having no reliable centre forwards is usually a bit of a handicap in football – but gradually under Jose Mourinho’s pragmatic tutelage and charismatic leadership they are beginning to cast teams aside. Steve Bruce has some big decisions to make to try to counter the considerable threat while trying to maintain a home record that has admirably few blemishes thereon.

The City gaffer, whose plans have been disrupted by a bout of the two bob bits going through his side, needs to decide whether three centre backs or a flat quartet in defence will be best suited to sponging up Chelsea’s inevitable quick countering and majority possession, while also considering whether he can get away with playing just one striker. Assuming the Immodium has done its job, he has all the regular suspects available except Paul McShane, who is out for a month after injuring his ankle in the FA Cup last week. Chelsea are without injured duo Frank Lampard and Branislav Ivanovic.

With Norwich and Crystal Palace to come next in the Premier League, there is an element of “free hit” about this one, which should be taken up a notch just because the Tigers are at home, and the more realistic would be happy for City to emerge with credit, without injury and free from a seeing-to. Goals remain an issue generally, despite the freakishly magnificent result in the last home game, though hopefully by the time we head to Carrow Road next week, terms with Nikica Jelavic will have been agreed.

There are odds of 8/13 on Chelsea winning, with City at 5/1 and the draw priced at 14/5. City haven’t beaten Chelsea in any competition since a famous 3-0 humping of Bobby Campbell’s Second Division champions-elect in October 1988 which was the finest hour of Eddie Gray’s short managerial career at Boothferry Park. However, the last time Chelsea came to the Circle, in the 2009/10 season, City held them to a 1-1 draw and, given that City were somewhat chaotic at the time, it was some result.

A rather more organised, focussed, tight City outfit are in action this weekend and that offers considerable hope that something can be attained from the game. With the BT Sport cameras beaming the game to the world, again it provides a chance for the Tigers to show they are the real deal. C’mon City.