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It’s only five matches into the season, but already Saturday’s meeting between Chelsea and Manchester City has the feel of a title decider.
While the London Blues are top of the table (on head-to-head from Liverpool by virtue of their away goal in the pulsating 1-1 draw against at Anfield a fortnight ago), the visiting Citizens are three points further back. It is nevertheless accepted that these two will have been the principal actors in the title drama come May.
Some of that is to do with the fact that Chelsea are reigning European champions, and have in the dugout the man considered to be the strongest tactician in the business in some circles. Thomas Tuchel’s transformation of the side has garnered many column inches, as has the sheer meanness of the rearguard he has constructed.
However, in adding a true blockbuster centre-forward in Romelu Lukaku this summer, the London club simply reinforced a core tenet of their rise over the last 20 years: a relentless focus on recruiting the game’s elite talents
Meanwhile, City centre-backs John Stones and Aymeric Laporte are both out injured, while Rodri, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Ilkay Gundogan are all doubtful due to injury.
Manchester City are coming from a comfortable 6-1 comeback victory against Wycombe Wanderers in the Carabao Cup and the Chelsea clash will be the first of a series of tough games, as they will be also called to play Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool next week.
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Chelsea’s predicted line-up: Edouard Mendy; Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, Marcos Alonso; Kai Havertz, Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner.
Manchester City’s predicted line-up: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake, Joao Cancelo; Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan; Gabriel Jesus, Ferran Torres, Jack Grealish.