Writer: Andy Leggott
Date:Sunday August 20 2006
City open their season at the home of the champions, looking for an upturn in form after last season's shocking run in. The blues lost eight out of their last nine fixtures, at the end of last season, and would surely have struggled to stay up if they hadn't got the points on the board early on.
Since then the club has undergone something of a complete makeover and we could see as many as four players making their debuts in the side to face Chelsea. Two new signings who won't be playing are Dietmar Hamman (injury) and Hatem Trabelsi (fitness)but expect Isaksson, Dabo, Corradi and Dickov all to feature at some stage.
Chelsea have problems of their own, with at least five first choice players missing, but have resources way beyond the scope of City to cope with their problems. Not that you would believe that if you listened to Jose Mourinho over the last few days, the Chelsea boss seemingly already looking for excuses should the unthinkable happen.
To be fair to Chelsea they have had a low key pre-season due to the number of players involved in the later stages of the World Cup. However, the sympathy ends there when you consider the scope they have to deal with those problems.
City boss, Stuart Pearce, attempts to put some gloss on having to face Chelsea first up:
'It might not be a bad time to play Chelsea.
They have a few new players and virtually all of their squad played in the World Cup so they have not had much of a pre-season. I don't mind playing them first but it could have been an easier start.'
Chelsea boss, Jose Mourinho, looks for sympathy in the wake of a poor pre-season:
'I prefer to play competitive matches than friendlies but I only like to go into matches when I feel my team is ready for it. That's not the case now. It's a funny situation to prepare a team without training sessions. We have new players, yes, but we also lost good players and we will have 15 players for Manchester City.'
Chelsea are missing Cole, Huth, Cech and Makelele and are almost certainly without new signing Ballack. Shevchenko should make his Premiership debut and we may even get a glimpse of Shaun Wright-Phillips in opposition for the first time.
When your looking for a scoring start in the Premiership and your one of the world's best forwards, what better introduction could you have than Manchester City and their defence?
Hamman and Cole are out and Dunne remains doubtful. Trabelsi is not yet considered to be fit enough to play any part. Isaksson should make his first appearance in the City goal. Distin is expected to start after failing to agree terms on a move to Boro. Corradi and Vassell could start up front but it may well be just Corradi with Vassell being pushed wide left to strengthen the midfield.
Signed his new contract and should now buckle down and show us he is the player he believes he is.
City haven't won at the Bridge since 1993 when a Mike Sheron double helped the blues to a 4-2 win.
In the premiership City have managed to beat Chelsea just once in sixteen, a Nicolas Anelka penalty giving City a 1-0 win in Chelsea's first premiership winning season.
The myth that we are something of a bogey side for Chelsea is therefore just that, despite being the only side to beat them in 2004/05.
Steve Bennett - My memories of him from last season are of his refereeing in the 3-1 derby win and subsequent sending off of the Portugese show pony for an horrific tackle on Cole.
Much as City need a good start to the season it is hard to see us getting anything here. If decisions and luck go our way, we may be playing Chelsea at the right time and sneak a draw. I can't see it however and expect Chelsea to win by two clear goals.
Portsmouth (h) - 23/08/06 19:45
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Date:Sunday August 20 2006
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