The biggest game of the 2014-15 Premier League season so far will take place on Saturday as first placed Chelsea welcome Manchester City (Watch, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) to Stamford Bridge.
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Heading into this match both teams are coming off humblings at home to lower-league opponents in the FA Cup last weekend, while City have players missing at the Africa Cup of Nations and Chelsea are facing suspension and injury headaches galore after their fiery midweek League Cup semifinal victory over Liverpool.
After these sides drew 1-1 at the Etihad Stadium in the reverse fixture back in September, they seemed to cancel eachother out. Will the same thing happen again? Will Frank Lampard score another late goal for City against his old club? Will Diego Costa play or be banned? So many questions, so little time.
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Let’s keep the questions rolling and debate how each team may line up on Saturday. They both employ similar tactics with a flexible 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation depending on whether they are attacking or defending. But the personnel is the big question as there’s a Yaya Toure sized hole in City’s midfield while Costa’s menancing presence may be missing from Chelsea’s attack.
Here’s a suggested lineup for each side…
— Courtois —
— Ivanovic (?) — Cahill — Terry — Azpilicueta —
— Oscar — Matic — Fabregas (?) —
— Willian — Costa (?) — Hazard —
Question marks: Costa may be banned for the game vs. City due to the FA charge of violent conduct against him. That means either Loic Remy or Didier Drogba could come in up top to replace the Spaniard. Influential playmaker Fabregas is struggling with a hamstring issue, while Filipe Luis looks to be out and Ivanovic is also carrying a knock.
MANCHESTER CITY (4-5-1)
— Hart —
— Zabaleta — Kompany — Demichelis (?) — Clichy —
Milner — Fernandinho — Silva — Lampard (?) — Navas
— Aguero —
Question marks: With Yaya Toure and Wilfried Bony away with the Ivory Coast and Samir Nasri injured, City will have to look elsewhere for goals and inspiration. Both Aguero and Kompany have looked rusty since returning from injury, so will Manuel Pellegrini call on Frank Lampard to start in midfield instead of the more defense-minded Fernando? At center back, will the experience of Demichelis be preferred to Mangala?