Chelsea v Man City - A Battle Of Wits
George sent Vital Manchester City the following:
This is a biggie. And not just for the team that fell apart when Raymondo left and then bought El Nino to try and stop the rot - or the team that will, like it or not, buy the Premier League fairly soon. Just like Chelsea.
Anything other than a draw effectively ends the losing team's push for a slim chance at the title. Which will mean a lot more to Chelsea - I think it's fair to say fourth is City's overriding requirement this season. Whatever the end result, and even if you're a neutral, this is one of the most intriguing fixtures of the season. Here's why...
Nobody really knows what's going on at either club. Both have shown contradictions, major flaws, flappability and fallibility in spades at times. For a spell, I honestly thought Chelsea were going into some hitherto un-witnessed freefall. And it could be the inherent nerves that are part of the City faithful's DNA, but there's still a whiff of 'we'll probably screw this up' in some of our performances. Bottom line is, nobody can predict how either side will play this one. Both are, at present, unknown quantities. At times unbalanced, lethargic or nervy. At others assured, fluid and unplayable.
So I think it's going to fall to the team that first manages to convince the other - rightly or wrongly - that they're more in control. That their troubles are over, they deserve it more and all they can smell now is the blood further up the table.
City, for my money, have been hugely impressive at the back of late. Against Aris and Villa they were un-phased at close quarters, quick-firing tight passes with conviction, simply rolling the ball around midfield, then unleashing the pace and incisive deliveries that were, well… average.
It's odd, I think the scoreline flattered us a bit, yet the finishing was disappointing at times. Like Chelsea, we have too many options up front, and things are still yet to gel, which is nonetheless promising for both clubs' future success. Torres is rattling around, looking for where he's supposed to fit in. He will, sure, but he hasn't yet, and I'm not sure anyone's offered him any sensible suggestions.
Likewise with Balotelli and Dzeko. I'm not sure Balotelli will ever really fit in unless he has a personality transplant, but that's just me. If he scores goals, I guess it doesn't really matter. For City, it's a case of who's going to stick around for next season, and based on that, what the most effective delivery and strike partnerships are. And the most consistent.
Our performance against Wigan would have been acceptable two seasons ago. Today it just isn't, even if three points is all that ultimately matters.
Neither side can boast consistency, so it's really hard to call which way it's going to go, if any. Or by what margin. Even the tacticians would agree, either side could end up thumping t'other, or it could be a cagey 0-0. I don't think it'll be boring, that's for sure.
Famous last words, maybe, but there's too much at stake. If I have to call it then based on a) being a City fan, and b) Chelsea having evolutionary problems for once worse than our own, I reckon we might win this comfortably - à la February 2010 when I nearly crashed the car while listening to it on the radio.
I'd bet on it more now than I would have done then, put it that way.
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