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Chelsea v City: Opposition View

We check out the vibes from Stamford Bridge ahead of Sunday's FA Cup clash...

How are you feeling ahead of the game?

Personally, a little ambivalent, but the prevailing feeling is that the FA Cup might be the simplest route into Europe next season and whilst it'd 'only' be the Europa League, it's better than nothing. That makes it a big game, bigger still that it's Chelsea vs City, and everything that goes with it.

How much importance are your club and the fans placing on the tie?

It's probably only behind the Champions League in terms of importance. That competition holds all the aces as far as Chelsea are concerned but, with the league campaign likely to dwindle to a dull conclusion, the FA Cup represents the aforementioned European option as well as a potential Wembley trip and trophy celebration. The way things have gone this term it's hard to turn your nose up at that.
What have you made of Chelsea’s season?

Unmitigated disaster probably doesn't come close to covering it. It's an unprecedented decline from the defending champions and there aren't many positives to take away. It'll hopefully be a one-off but there is serious work to be done in the summer, starting with a new manager.

Battle for the ball

How do you expect Chelsea to line up? Who will play and in what formation?

Hiddink has been relatively predictable with his teams and his formation so far and there aren't too many options right now either. It should be a 4-2-3-1 of Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, Baba Rahman, Mikel, Matic, Willian, Fabregas, Oscar, Diego Costa
Where do you think the key battles will take place on the pitch?

Centre forwards against centre-backs. Diego Costa is in fantastic form right now and will be a real challenge for Otamendi - who is yet to really convince - and Kompany, who has of course only just returned to fitness. At the other end with Terry and Zouma missing, Cahill and Ivanovic will have to find a way to deal with Sergio Aguero; not the easiest of players to shackle at the best of times.
If you could have one City player in your team, who would it be?

Still Aguero. There is no better forward in the league and the range of ways in which he can affect a match are unsurpassed.


Who is Chelsea’s key player and why?
Right now this is Diego Costa's team; Chelsea go as he goes. Fabregas is a close second right now but without Costa to get on the end of his work, to bustle around haranguing defenders and generally being a nuisance he wouldn't be as effective. Costa will be central to any chances Chelsea have of winning.
What would you say both sides’ strengths and weaknesses are?
Well for Chelsea it's currently the Fabregas/Costa connection, the former dictating things from midfield and the latter doing the work of two or three men in attack. Other than that, Hiddink has set up to limit mistakes and limit the potential for mistakes (because the overall construction of the squad is inherently flawed) and so they've embarked upon a lengthy unbeaten run that owes much to a 'safety first' mentality.

City are amongst the best teams in the league at controlling a game on their terms and have numerous attacking players who can hurt you but it seems that, if things begin to go against them, they lose their way a bit. It's not so much about having a Plan B but rather that they appear quick to turn away from their primary approach when, in all likelihood, continuing to probe and press in that manner would eventually yield a reward.
What do you think both sides can achieve this season?

The best Chelsea can hope for is a repeat of the 2012 Champions League miracle, but there's a reason the word miracle is used. I expect most people would take an FA Cup win and a Europa League place.

City, of course, can still win all four trophies but I suspect Pellegrini will want to throw everything at his last Champions League shot. Dynamo Kyiv shouldn't be too much of an issue and when you're in the last eight anything can happen. I wouldn't rule it out, but a full-on European assault would probably mean conceding the Premier League chase in such a tight, four-team race.
Dare to cast a score prediction…?
It really depends on City's team; if rumours of a handful of EDS players featuring with Kyiv in mind are true then Chelsea should be favourites, but a best-on-best affair would see City take the spoils. Considering how Chelsea have played lately and how City are expected to approach things, a 1-1 draw and a replay neither side really wants will probably end up being the case.

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