When the 2014/15 Premier League fixture list was announced, matchday five was one that Chelsea fans everywhere circled on their calendars. Going away to face the defending Premier League champions was always going to be an event worth watching, and given the two (full sized) horse race that the Premier League is expected to become this season, the opening matchup between the heavyweights was always going to be a big match for the neutrals as well.
While both clubs started the season looking every bit as good as expected, some recent troubles for City have left this game with a bit of a must-win feel for the home side. A Chelsea victory would leave the Blues sitting a comfortable eight points ahead just five matches into the season, while a City victory would leave the gap at a far more manageable two points. Anyone foolish enough to believe an eight-point margin at this early juncture would rule City out of a title race is delusional, but that said, it would leave Chelsea a very good sized cushion with which to work.
Given that the comments out of Manchester this week have reflected the relative importance of this game, I'd be shocked to see Manchester City line up at all conservatively for this one. Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, typically likes to sit deep, break up play, and frustrate quality opponents away from Stamford Bridge by hitting on the counter. As a point would still be an excellent result for this Chelsea side at The Ethiad, I'd expect to see a lineup constructed to frustrate our opponents in this one. This should be fun, no?
Opponent: Manchester CIty
Venue: Ethiad Stadium, Manchester, England
Date/Time: Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 16:00 local time
Chelsea squad news: Diego Costa is still not 100% fit, but he got most of the night off on Wednesday, and will most certainly start this one barring something unexpected before match time. Everyone else is fit, and fatigue should not be an issue. I wouldn't expect Mourinho to hold anyone out of the lineup to keep them fresh ahead of the Bolton Wanderers match midweek.
Chelsea predicted XI: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Ramires, Hazard, Willian, Schurrle, Costa
Manchester City squad news: City have a few injuries, and two players expected to be unavailable for Sunday's big match. Both Fernando and Stevan Jovetic are expected to miss out, while Edin Dzecko is expected to be fit enough to play despite dealing with a minor back injury. I'm not sure that either of the missing pair would be part of their best possible eleven, so we're still looking at a very, very strong side.
City predicted XI: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Demichelis, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Toure, Silva, Nasri, Aguero, Dzeko
Television/Streaming: In the US, it's on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra. UK viewers can tune in to Sky Sports 1 HD or Sky Go. Indian fans can watch on Star Sports 4. Chelsea TV subscribers will have access to live audio from the match, and everyone else can check in here to see their local listings.