Chelsea defended admirably in their last 16 1st leg Champions League tie away to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday eventually going down 2-1 but with a precious away goal take back to Stamford Bridge for the 2nd leg.
That performance should give Chelsea some confidence as they prepare for their FA Cup 5th round tie with Manchester City on Sunday afternoon (4pm kick off), and one would suspect that Guus Hiddink is almost certain to select a strong starting line-up, having done so against both Scunthorpe United in the 3rd round and Milton Keynes Dons in the 4th round.
Prior to that defeat in Paris, Chelsea had possessed the longest unbeaten run of any Premier League team, having gone a dozen matches in all competitions since their last defeat. It’s no coincidence that it was a dozen matches since Jose Mourinho parted company with them. Their last Premier League action saw them hammer Newcastle United 5-1, although captain John Terry did go off with a hamstring injury. With Kurt Zouma already ruled out until next season, Chelsea could be running low on central defenders.
Two costly home defeats against title rivals Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur will have Manchester City licking their wounds ahead of their trip to face Chelsea. They are also unhappy that this game is being played on Sunday, just three days prior to their Champions League 1st leg tie away to Dynamo Kiev.
It’s certainly the start of a busy schedule that could make or break City’s season, with this marking the first of four games in 11 days in four competitions. Following their FA Cup and Champions League games, they then face Liverpool at Wembley the following Sunday in the Capital One Cup final, then travel to Anfield to face Liverpool again in Premier League action the next Wednesday.
The FA Cup is clearly the least of City’s priorities as things stand and Manuel Pellegrini has already indicated that he will rest key players at Stamford Bridge. Citing his unhappiness over the Sunday kick-off, the Chilean has stated, “If we play against Chelsea on Sunday it won’t be a normal team. It will be a young team. I don’t see why we can’t play on Saturday. I must do what I think is better for the club, which is the Champions League.”
Although City’s Premier League title aspirations have taken a hefty hit over the past week or so, they are only six points off the top and still harbour realistic hopes of getting back in the race. That combined with big Champions League and Capital One Cup games on the horizon, suggests there is little reason to doubt Pellegrini’s pledge to rest star players.