Saturday’s late kickoff sees the two clear title challengers so far this season go head-to-head in what fans hope will be a thrilling encounter.
An 85th-minute equaliser for City from Chelsea legend Frank Lampard left a bitter taste in the mouth of the watching support when Chelsea travelled to the Etihad back in September and Chelsea boss José Mourinho will be keen to see his side repeat their Stamford Bridge result for this fixture last season. In that game, played at the end of October 2013, another late strike stunned the crowd when Fernando Torres pounced on a last-minute calamity in Manchester City’s defence to give Chelsea a 2-1 victory, after Sergio Agüero had cancelled out André Schürrle’s opener.
Despite winning the title last season, coming into this game City were languishing down in 7th place, while Chelsea were keen on reducing the gap on league leaders Arsenal to two points, leapfrogging Liverpool along the way. This season, Chelsea are five points clear at the top and look like favourites for the title, but City’s resilience under Manuel Pellegrini has been demonstrated for all and 3 points at the Bridge would plant a firm marker for their Premier League campaign.
To see what fans of both Clubs may be thinking about the fixture this season, we looked at the Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football data from this game last season, to see what players were picked for the lineups last year.
Beat Your Manager! Fantasy Football is a game similar to “Football Manager”, but applied to live football, where you manage your favourite Club and pick lineups, bench, formations and substitutions, all in real-time. When fans play the game, the Beat Your Manager team can measure the popularity of different players, by looking at how frequently they are selected for the starting lineup, substitutes bench or not selected at all.
The app ran for the 2013/4 EPL season and is currently inactive while the developers are creating the revised version – we’ll keep you posted on when it’s going to re-launch.
Formation: 4-4-2 the most popular choice, particularly for City fans
A solid 4-4-2 formation won out with fans on both sides. 33% of Chelsea fans opted for this setup, with a more attacking 4-3-3 formation in 2nd place, selected by 20%. A whopping 60% of City fans also went for 4-4-2, making it the clear favourite, with a similar percentage (to CFC fans) going for the 4-3-3 option; 22%.
Goalkeeper: Fans and Managers on the same page
Fans of both Clubs selected their regular number 1s for this fixture although the confidence levels varied slightly between the two groups.
Petr Cech was chosen for the lineup by just over three-quarters (76%) of Chelsea fans, while Joe Hart got the vote from two-thirds (66%) of City fans.
Both Managers agreed with the fans, with Cech and Hart both lining up between the posts.
Defence: Three clear fan choices in defence; Managers thought so, too
Both Chelsea and City had three clear fan choices in defence and both Managers tended to agree with fans on the back four.
Branislav Ivanović was Chelsea’s most popular defender for this game, his 82% rating making him the club’s 3rd-most popular player for this game. Ashley Cole was very closely rated to Ivanović, on 80%, with John Terry slightly further behind (71%) and Gary Cahill (56%), just making it into the lineup.
With Vincent Kompany out injured, Gaël Clichy was City’s most popular defender (and 7th-most popular player) on a 72% rating from the sky blues. Pablo Zabaleta earned a respectable 2nd-place in the lineup with the approval of 64% of fans, with Martín Demichelis (70%) close behind. After Demichelis, the choices were not compelling for City fans and Micah Richards just squeezed into the lineup on the recommendation of just 26% of fans, by far the least popular player on the pitch.
Chelsea boss Mourinho agreed with the fans on all four defenders, while Pellegrini tackled the absence of Kompany by bringing in Matija Nastasić (12% fan rating) instead of fan-pick Richards.
Midfield: Formation changes all the rage between fans and Managers
Man City topped the midfield charts, taking three of the top-four most popular spots.
Yaya Touré was City’s most popular midfielder and the most popular player on the pitch, with a perfect 100% score, with David Silva (98%) and Jesús Navas (96%) close behind. Fernandinho lagged a bit behind Navas, on 80%, but was still well ahead of colleague Samir Nasri, just missing the cut with fans, on 71%.
Only Oscar could challenge Man City’s top three midfielders for popularity, his 98% rating making him Chelsea’s most popular player for this game. After Oscar, support for Chelsea’s midfielders was shared fairly equally among fans, with Willian (78%), Juan Mata (71%) and Ramires (69%) sharing the spoils pretty evenly in midfield.
Both managers made a formation change to the fans. Mourinho opted to bench Mata and field Frank Lampard (64% fan rating) instead of Willian in a three-man midfield to accommodate an extra forward upfront. Pellegrini added Javi García (64% fan rating) in a five-man midfield setup and also decided to go with Nasri instead of fan-pick Navas.
Forwards: All goals from forwards in this game, surprising eh?
City’s most-popular forward was Agüero, his 97% score making him the club’s 3rd-most popular player and he rewarded both fans and Pellegrini with the opening goal.
Edin Dzeko (74%) was the fans’ second choice upfront, but he was benched by the manager to accommodate Javi García in midfield.
Chelsea’s most popular striker with fans was Eden Hazard, his 87% rating from the Londoners making him the club’s 2nd-most popular player. Fernando Torres (80%) was the favoured second striker and he rewarded both fans and Pellegrini with the opening goal.
By fielding a three-man midfield, Mourinho was free to maximise his attacking talent and both fan-picks were also accompanied by André Schürrle (40% fan rating), his opening goal starting what was to prove a good day for the hosts and consistent title challengers for most of last season.