Inside The Opposition: Man City vs Chelsea

So here we are, one of the biggest games of the season in week two. A lot of words have been said and written about this game by fans and journalists. It’s too early to declare it a vital, must win game but there are definitely shades of that about it…

Following their disappointing opening day draw with Swansea we spoke to Tom Minton of CFCnet, a fellow Football Collective site and probably the best Chelsea fan site out there.

Hi Tom, thanks for chatting with us. Chelsea didn’t get off to a perfect start. How much of a blow was that? Suddenly a lot of talk about Chelsea “standing still” seems to have surfaced…

Tell me about it! It was disappointing to say the least. That said, Swansea are a good side, and to be honest after watching us in pre-season, I’m not hugely surprised we didn’t win. There’s still 37 games to go and I’m still fairly confident we’ll be there or thereabouts come the finish. We’ve got the quality.

As far as standing still is concerned, I’m not entirely convinced by that school of thought. It seems Mourinho is sticking to a ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach, which – given the way we won the title last season – seems reasonable. There’s still some dead wood that needs removing (Juan Cuadrado, I’m looking at you), a left-back is a priority and I would give anything to see some of our quality youth get a look-in rather than loaning out dozens of them again but if nothing more is done this transfer window I’ll still be sure of us being up there. The only way we’ll be standing still is if the players have lost the hunger to lift the title again, which with Mourinho at the helm I can’t see happening.

Thibaut Courtois’s appeal against the red card was unsuccessful – how much of a loss is he for the City game? Do you trust Begovic to step in for a big game like this?

He’s a tremendous loss, no doubt. Obviously the internet is rife with smart tweets and comments along the lines of ‘Oh, if only Chelsea had a world-class back-up, lol’ but while Begovic is nowhere near at the level of Petr Cech, he is still a very capable goalkeeper who I have plenty of faith in. It’s not like we’re throwing in one of the academy keepers, we’re talking a goalkeeper who’s played in the World Cup, and over 150 games at Premier League level.

He’s worked under Tony Pulis and we all know the kind of style he stereotypically employs – which will probably stand him in good stead for games like this for us. We will likely attempt to keep you at bay and just to try to sting you late on and I think Begovic will be used to that approach thanks to his time at Stoke. Plus, he will have two very good centre-backs in front of him in JT and Cahill that will hopefully keep you at arm’s length.

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 22:  Asmir Begovic #1 of Chelsea warms up prior to the match against the New York Red Bulls during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

HARRISON, NJ – JULY 22: Asmir Begovic #1 of Chelsea warms up prior to the match against the New York Red Bulls during the International Champions Cup at Red Bull Arena on July 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Chelsea, and Mourinho, are somewhat expert in closing out big games with disciplined performances. Do you expect to see Chelsea set up as their usual attacking selves at the weekend or will they revert to a safety first approach?

We’ll definitely go for safety first. Mourinho will be aware that even though we’ll only be two games in, being 5 points behind will be a big boost for you and a massive blow to us. I would expect a midfield pairing of Matic and Mikel (or even Kurt Zouma) to start the game and just break up the play and get physical with Fabregas in the no.10 role. Assuming it’s still close come the last half hour I would hope Fabregas would drop back, Mikel or Zouma would come off and someone like Oscar would come on and the shackles would be loosened in an effort to nick that goal and hopefully the three points.

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05: Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho talks to members of the media during the official Premier League season launch media event at Southfields Academy on August 5, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 05: Chelsea FC manager Jose Mourinho talks to members of the media during the official Premier League season launch media event at Southfields Academy on August 5, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

We’ve got the power to go toe-to-toe with you with your usual free-flowing attacking style, but I highly doubt we will attempt to, there’s too much at stake even at this stage.

What do you think of City’s team this season? Chelsea are favourites to retain the title but do you think City have a good shot? Any players you’re particularly not looking forward to seeing on Sunday?

As far as your team goes I feel you desperately need a centre-back and less so a left-back. I do not rate Mangala in the slightest, and i’m not the biggest fan in Kolarov or Clichy, though obviously you know them better than I do. Getting rid of Dzeko seems a strange one to me, I always liked him and felt he was a dependable and reliable player. With only Aguero and Bony as your main strikers, you will surely need another one as injury cover if nothing else.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 21:  Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City celebrates after scoring a goal during the International Champions Cup friendly match between Manchester City and AS Roma at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 21, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JULY 21: Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City celebrates after scoring a goal during the International Champions Cup friendly match between Manchester City and AS Roma at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 21, 2015 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Robert Prezioso/Getty Images)

If you asked me about title chances before you played West Brom I’d have said Arsenal have surpassed you as our main contenders. But seeing how you played I was very impressed and you are most definitely in the reckoning. Yes it was only the Albion and you’ll have much tougher tests this season but it’s games like that that if got nothing from it and didn’t win the league, you’d have looked back at the end of the season and pointed to it as a reason why. Teams like us have to beat teams like them.

Sergio Aguero is without a doubt my favourite player in the Premier League, not counting Chelsea players. So for this weekend I will hope he has an absolute shocker! I’m a big fan of David Silva too, and I fear with how our full-backs have looked over pre-season and against Swansea, he might have the running of them which will not make for pleasant viewing for us Chelsea fans!

How do you think Chelsea will line up?

Begovic in goal, Ivanovic at right-back, Terry and Cahill in the middle, Azpilicueta at left-back. As I’ve alluded to, Matic and Mikel (or Zouma) as the anchormen, Hazard and Willian out wide with Fabregas in the no.10 and Costa up top.

Thanks again for coming on to answer our questions, Tom! No hard feelings like but I won’t wish yo utoo much good luck for the weekend… 

Interview by Alex Timperley

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