The FA Cup fifth round clash will be a perfect opportunity for Manchester City to get revenge on Chelsea for the Premier League defeat at Etihad, although the protagonists are unlikely to be the same with both managers looking to ring changes to the starting line-up for one reason or another.
This game clearly comes at a bad time for Manchester City, even if Manuel Pellegrini’s players managed to get some rest with their weekend’s clash against Sunderland having been postponed. The Citizens have just suffered two major setbacks in the Premier League title race, losing to Chelsea at home and only mustering a goalless draw at Norwich, thus slipping to their in the overall standings. They are also without important players Aguero and Fernandinho, whilst Samir Nasri has yet to return from a knee problem. And to cap it all off, they are set to contest the Champions League clash against Barcelona just three days later, so no wonder Manuel Pellegrini has hinted he will field an under strength side in the FA Cup match with Chelsea. Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott and even Jack Rodwell are expected to start, with quite a few regular starters set to be rested. Samir Nasri and Javi Garcia are not fully fit but they could play a part. Manuel Pellegrini will be torn between the desire to exact revenge on the Blues and the need to rest key players ahead of the Barcelona game, but the latter looks likely to prevail.
Chelsea, too, suffered an unexpected slip-up this weekend as they failed to defeat out-of-sorts West Bromwich at the Hawthorns having conceded a late equalizer, but they have a lot more reason for optimism than their next opponents. The Blues climbed to the Premiership summit thanks to back to back triumphs over City and Newcastle, and remained there in spite of the weekend’s setback. And the fact they do not have a midweek game could give them an extra edge in the FA Cup tie against Manchester City. Nevertheless, with quite a few players carrying knocks and others in need of rest, chances are that Jose Mourinho will also use the match to rest some of his starters. The visitors have problems at the back as both John Terry and Gary Cahill are injury doubts, which should see Ivanovic and Luiz form a centre-back pairing. Torres, Mikel, Salah, Schurrle, Lampard and Cole are all expected to start, with Jose Mourinho likely to adopt the same counter-attacking approach that helped his side record a crucial Premiership victory some 12 days ago.
As much as the hosts would like to get one over Chelsea, Manuel Pellegrini has no choice but to field a second string line-up with a view to Champions League encounter against Barcelona. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho is expected to ring changes as well, but with no games for them in midweek, the Blues can give their best at Etihad, which should ultimately prove the difference.
Verdict: Chelsea not to lose
Best Odds: 7/10