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After a shaky start on his arrival at the club, Conte quickly identified a 3-4-3 formation as integral to the Blues success placing huge responsibility on his defensive players to win the ball back and quickly deliver it to the devastating creative influences the Blues possess.
Arguably the definitive game of Chelsea’s title winning season last term came at the Etihad Stadium in December as despite being 1-0 down and outplayed for long periods of the game, Chelsea picked up a 3-1 victory over Manchester City that saw City reduced to 9 men.
And as the two teams meet again this weekend, in what promises to be one of the games of the Premier League season so far – it will be fascinating to see how Pep Guardiola looks to keep his team’s incredible run going.
City have blown away all before them this season (apart from Everton) and have terrorised defences with their intricate football in-between the lines and frightening pace on the flanks. Pep Guardiola’s blue print has seemingly been imparted on his charges and they have been reaping the rewards.
At exactly this point last season, Guardiola took his team to London to face Tottenham having won their opening 6 Premier League matches and City weren’t up to the task – losing 2-0 in a desperate performance and their free-flowing attacking mentality disappeared very quickly from there until the start of 2017.
Chelsea will be hoping they too can stop City in their tracks and put the brakes on their ominous looking start and they have all the hallmarks of being able to do so.
We analyse the 3 main areas where Chelsea can break down City:
Second Balls: Following last season’s defeat to Leicester Pep Guardiola proclaimed that he doesn’t teach ‘second balls’ and whilst his words could have been a little lost in translation, his sentiments weren’t. City aren’t known for their physicality and can sometimes get bypassed in midfield – something that simply isn’t going to happen to Chelsea with N’Golo Kante nibbling at everything that moves in midfield.
Full Backs: City have invested heavily in full-backs over the summer splashing out over £110 million and look far more assured in that department. Their willingness to get forward however, could play into Chelsea’s hands as the Blues look to hit teams early on the counter attack – penetrating the spaces left by buccaneering full-backs. The loss of Benjamin Mendy comes as a huge blow for City but in Danilo they have a more than capable replacement and he and Kyle Walker will need to be at their very best to stop Eden Hazard and co.
Alvaro Morata: Diego Costa caused all the damage at City last week. His strength and willingness to run the channels caused John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi all sorts of problems as he equalised in the match which propelled the Blues towards 3 points. Alvaro Morata has replaced Diego Costa in the Chelsea starting XI and has hit the ground running in the Premier League – scoring 6 goals in 6 games and he looks to have all the credentials of a top Premier League striker. In what promises to be his biggest test so far, he will need to occupy both centre halves in order to stop City being able to play out from the back and build their trademark attacks.
The rest of the Premier League will be watching on to gauge where both of these heavyweights are at this early stage of the season.
City are sure to arrive in London full of confidence but Conte’s men are one of the best counter-attacking sides in the Premier League and could well be too clinical for Pep’s men.