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Man City v Chelsea: The crucial issues ahead of table-topping clash

| 02.12.2016

It’s undoubtedly set to be the game of the season so far. Chelsea head to Manchester City, where either side could lay down a serious statement for their Premier League ambitions.

Can Antonio Conte, with an in-form Diego Costa and a three-man defence, get something out of Pep Guardiola’s hard-pressing City?

The Blues appear to have perfected the new system, winning seven games on the spin, conceding just once in that time.

But they haven’t faced a strikeforce quite as strong as the one City possess.

Last weekend Pep fielded Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure and Nolito behind Sergio Aguero in a clear 4-2-3-1.

But this weekend we could well see Guardiola return to the 4-1-4-1, as seen in the Citizens’ last two home games.

That included the superb 3-1 victory over Barcelona, and one of the stars of that night – Kevin de Bruyne is surely a strong shout to replace either Yaya or Nolito.

The Belgian is easily City’s most reliable source of assists, providing eight Premier League goals already for his team-mates this term.

With Ilkay Gundogan and David Silva also to consider, Guardiola has a wealth of midfield options, and crucially, a number of tactical choices thanks to Fernando and Fernandinho.

Conte of course is not short of options either with the Italian set to continue his thus far successful 3-4-3 / 3-4-2-1 formation.

The errors have disappeared from David Luiz’s game since joining a back three with Gary Cahill and Cesar Azipilicueta, while N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic have combined to become a defensive midfield duo that no side can match.

And the Blues will be asking plenty of questions of City’s defence too.

With five goals from six appearances, Eden Hazard is in prime form to create some magic, while on the other flank Pedro is playing his best football since leaving Barcelona.

And then there’s Costa, who, with 10 goals and four assists has directly contributed to more goals than any player this season and must be a major concern for John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

And City will do well to remember something Tottenham didn’t, namely, Victor Moses.

The former Liverpool player has missed just 25 minutes of Chelsea’s seven-game run, and can be easily overlooked in a fixture with so much talent on display.

This game will come down to a small number of crucial issues. Can Chelsea’s three-man defence, plus Kante and Matic, keep out Aguero, De Bruyne, Sterling and Yaya?

Who will win the midfield battle? And how will City’s defence cope with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard?

Whatever the answers may be, it’s sure to be gripping viewing.

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Richard Marsh

Richard loves his sport, especially if it involves the sound of tyres screaming around a race track. He's not fussy though and his '90s Premier League nostalgia and knowledge of team nicknames is tough to match.