So many times over the years, Frank Lampard was a difference-maker for Chelsea as they ascended to the Premier League elite.
That hasn’t changed in his first season at Manchester City, which should make the Stamford Bridge faithful very nervous as their favourite son returns to London today (Saturday) for a crunch match between the table’s top two teams.
Lampard left Chelsea as their all-time leading scorer with 211 goals in all competitions, including 48 match-winners in league play. His first goal for the Citizenson Sept. 21 didn’t provide a victory, but it did secure a needed point against his former squad in a 1-1 draw at the Etihad, striking in the 85th minute as City played the final 24 minutes with 10 men in a testy match that saw nine yellow cards issued.
“It’s not how I expected to say goodbye to the Chelsea fans,” the midfielder said after that match, with City manager Manuel Pellegrini calling out counterpart Jose Mourinho by saying Chelsea was “a big team with very good players that were just defending.”
Given this may be City’s last chance to keep Chelsea in their sights as they enter this match five points behind the Pensioners, emotions will undoubtedly run high. The two teams, though, will also be in combative moods given their performances over the weekend in cup play.
“(Saturday) is like a big game for us, it’s almost like a final,” Willian told Chelsea’s official website. “I hope we will win and if we do we will have an eight-point advantage so that would be great for us.”
Mourinho’s squad made a shocking crash exit from the FA Cup on Saturday – Chelsea’s 4-2 defeat to League One side Bradford City was the talk of England as their quest to win four trophies this year laid in shambles at Stamford Bridge. The Blues had little time to feel sorry for themselves and battled their way past Liverpool to reach the League Cup final on Tuesday, winning 2-1 on aggregate after a feisty 1-0 victory – another contest that saw nine yellow cards produced – that went 120 minutes and was settled on Branislav Ivanovic’s header in the 94th minute.
But the other talking point of the match involved star striker Diego Costa, who was given a three-match ban Friday by the FA for violent conduct for his stamp on Liverpool midfielder Emre Can that rules him out of this contest. Additionally, Mourinho spent all week antagonising the FA – he publicly railed over a missed penalty Tuesday, was fined 25,000 pounds Wednesday for comments following last month’s draw versus Southampton and did not appear before the media for the league’s mandated pre-match news conference Friday.
Costa’s absence means either Didier Drogba or Loic Remy will be a first-choice striker, but also worrisome is midfielder Cesc Fabregas’ availability due to a knock to his hamstring. That may result in the “Special One” fortifying his defence, which has produced five consecutive clean sheets and a 478-minute shutout streak in league play at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea have outscored opponents 24-3 while claiming the maximum 30 points from 10 home matches.
Pellegrini and City, meanwhile, have been stewing since also being bounced from the FA Cup on Saturday – absorbing a 2-0 defeat to Championship side Middlesbrough. It was the second straight home loss by that scoreline for City, who also fell to Arsenal on Jan. 18 and have not dropped consecutive league matches since setbacks to Arsenal and Wolverhampton on Oct. 24 and 30, 2010, a span of 164 games.
“I am concerned,” Pellegrini admitted to the team’s official website, “not because of Chelsea but because we didn’t score in our last two home games. We conceded two goals in four of our last five home games – we need to recover our performances, both attacking and defending.”
Those 2010 defeats were part of City’s last three-game skid, which also included a Europa League defeat to Lech Poznan on Nov. 4, 2010.
Pellegrini will have to again shuffle his lineup since Yaya Toure and new signing Wilfried Bony are still unavailable after the Ivory Coast progressed to the knockout round of the Africa Cup of Nations, and influential midfielder Samir Nasri could be on the bench after training late in the week with the team.
“Yaya is a very important player for us but it would have been difficult for him to return from the African Cup of Nations after just two days had Ivory Coast been eliminated,” Pellegrini said Friday.
Source: ScoreMobile FC