Manchester City: Picking a side for Stamford Bridge 0

Not to sound too Sky Sports, but this really is a game that Manchester City can’t lose: a five point deficit to Chelsea with sixteen games remaining would still be significant, but an eight-point difference would feel like a chasm at this point of the season.

Here’s a suggested team for their trip to Stamford Bridge tomorrow:

Because of the various injuries and absentees, there isn’t actually that much debate over this, but:

- Martin Demichelis provides more stability than Eliaquim Mangala.  In time, the Frenchman will become a very significant presence in this City backline, but for the time-being his style of defending is more impulsive than methodical and that’s not really what Manuel Pellegrini needs tomorrow.

- Frank Lampard is not physically capable of playing ninety minutes in this sort of fixture, but he’s still a logical pick.  City can’t be too docile here and they can’t set up just to sit behind the ball for the entire game.  Lampard may be a fading force but he still offers a decent blend of attacking and defensive midfield play and he is the best alternative to absent Yaya Toure.  The Ivorian’s value is in his ability to contribute to multiple phases of the game in a way that neither Fernando nor Fernandinho are capable of doing.  When he doesn’t play, City lack the extra body going forward that Toure provides and they typically become both very predictable and overly-reliant on Sergio Aguero and David Silva.

Lampard is not a perfect alternative - obviously not - but he is the next best thing and will provide not only an aggressive passing range, but also some degree of attacking impetus from deeper areas.

- Samir Nasri is still recovering from injury, James Milner’s defensive qualities are required against Cesar Azpilicueta and Eden Hazard down the right side, and so Stevan Jovetic is the natural pick on the left.

Jovetic has not been as influential as he should have been this year and neither has he lived up to his pre-season promise, but he is still a nice auxiliary attacking option to have.  As per the above, Pellegrini needs to respond to the absence of Yaya Toure and equip his side with enough attacking ability to go out and beat an opponent who are very strong in both the centre of defence and deep midfield.  Beyond reverting to a formulaic 4-4-2 and playing an out-of-form Edin Dzeko alongside Sergio Aguero - and risk being horribly outnumbered in midfield - this is the only feasible way of doing that.

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