League leading Manchester City welcome second-placed Chelsea to the Etihad Stadium in a mouthwatering Premier League clash for Saturday lunchtime.
Across Pep Guardiola’s long and storied managerial career, no club has inflicted more defeats upon his side than Chelsea. The Catalan coach didn’t win any of his four meetings with the Blues while at the helm of Barcelona, and has lost three of his last four matches against the west London club at City.
Here’s the XI Guaridola may deploy against the closest thing the serial winner has to a bogey side.
Ederson (GK) – Left out of the squad that dumped Swindon Town out of the FA Cup, Ederson may well return for this top of the table meeting.
Kyle Walker (RB) – The England international had started 12 of City’s previous 14 Premier League matches (a rarity in any Guardiola squad) before a mysterious, lengthy absence that has seen him miss six league games.
Ruben Dias (CB) – The burning desire to win that rages inside Dias was evident during his schoolboy trials as he moved from attack to defence because he couldn’t ‘bear watching my team suffer’. He has been there, with little suffering, ever since.
Aymeric Laporte (CB) – In Europe’s premier possession team, Laporte completes more passes per game than any one else.
Joao Cancelo (LB) – The supposed full-back – on either flank – has had more touches in Manchester City’s attacking third than any of his teammates.
Kevin De Bruyne (CM) – With a direct hand (or boot) in four goals across his last four matches against Chelsea, De Bruyne provides a sharp and repeated reminder of the quality his former side sold.
Rodri (CM) – The glue that holds everything together, Rodri is on a 12-game winning run individually, a sequence which has seen City keep five clean sheets and concede just seven goals.
Ilkay Gundogan (CM) – Guardiola’s first signing upon arrival in Manchester City remains utterly integral to this team.
Gabriel Jesus (RW) – The Brazil international’s early season insistence that right wing would be his new position hasn’t quite been fulfilled thanks to Guardiola’s constant tinkering, although he could reprise the role to stretch Chelsea’s well-drilled defensive unit.
Bernardo Silva (ST) – Despite taking three fewer shots this term compared to the entirety of last season, Silva has already scored five more Premier League goals – leaping from a conversion rate of 7% to 28%.
Raheem Sterling (LW) – One more strike at the Etihad Stadium would be the 50th Premier League goal for London-born winger at that venue, becoming the second player to hit that mark after Sergio Aguero – who finished his career with more than double, on 106.