Chelsea FC head to the Etihad for the second time in two weeks to face Manchester City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday. The difference between the two sides the last time around was a first half strike by Branislav Ivanovic though the Blues looked the better side for much of the match. This weekend’s match is a different scenario altogether as both sides have their injury concerns with Chelsea looking worse for the wear. There are also the rumors that Jose Mourinho has placed the FA Cup third in the pecking order of competitions his side are a part of and will bench some of his regular starters.
Andre Schurrle, Mohamed Salah, and Ashley Cole are all in line for a start and Fernando Torres is set to make his first start since returning from injury earlier in the week. Eden Hazard, who tormented City in the last match, will likely be on the bench as will Samuel Eto’o. Centerbacks Gary Cahill and John Terry will both miss the match through injury leaving Chelsea with only experienced two center backs on the roster, Ivanovic and David Luiz.
Mourinho also has the option of bringing on Czech Republic youngster Tomas Kalas as a replacement for Terry or Cahill. Facing Manchester City’s attack would certainly be trial by fire for Kalas but what better time to give him some valuable experience? A backline of Cole, Luiz, Kalas, and Ivanovic/Azpilicueta is far from ideal but still more than capable of defending Chelsea’s goal. Who will be in Chelsea’s goal is still to be seen as Mark Schwarzer has started every FA Cup match so far for Chelsea.
For Manchester City their midweek clash with Sunderland was postponed due to inclement weather so the Sky Blues come in to the match with the advantage of three days extra rest. Centerback Matija Nastasic was unavailable midweek but may be fit on Saturday. Midfielders Javi Garcia and Samir Nasri have returned to training but only Nasri seems the more likely to make an appearance. Both Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho are a few weeks off from returning to first team action.
With both teams fielding weakened squads due to squad rotation or injury this could be a wide open goalfest of a match. Chelsea will look to run in behind the City defense with Schurrle and Salah and City will likely opt for the power of Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. If Chelsea pull out the victory then all the better but if not then it will be time to focus on the Premier League and Champions League for the Blues.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-2 Chelsea
Match Stats and Notes:
- Chelsea are undefeated in 31 of their last 32 matches in the FA Cup
- Jose Mourinho has won 7, drew 1 and lost 1 in all head-to-head matches against Manuel Pellegrini.
- Chelsea have kept clean sheets in 5 of their last 7 matches in FA Cup.
- Chelsea have won the FA Cup 7 times whilst Man City have it won it on five occasions.
Stats courtesy of EPL Index.
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