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Kevin De Bruyne settled the match with a stunning goal, just reward for City who were on top for the duration.
That’s about as comprehensive a one-goal victory as you’ll ever see. City bossed the game from the get-go, creating many a chance. It’s a credit to Chelsea’s defensive stubbornness that City required a moment of blistering brilliance from Kevin De Bruyne to make the difference. City return to the top of the table at the expense of their neighbours United. Chelsea stay in fourth, at least until tomorrow, one point behind Spurs and six shy of the Mancunian duo. A two-horse race for the title? Too early to be sure, but the signs are there.
90 min +3: Fabregas takes the corner quickly, and it’s not very good. Kante clatters into the back of Gundogan, and the pressure on City is released. And then De Bruyne is swapped for Danilo.
90 min +2: Azpilicueta, out on the right, hoicks long. Walker is forced to head out for a corner! Late pressure from Chelsea, and City are living on their nerves!
90 min +1: There will be three added minutes. One has already elapsed without incident.
90 min: The free kick is sent long by Fabregas to Christensen, who sends a header high and wide left from ten yards. That was a real chance to claim a smash-and-grab draw!
89 min: Willian looks to pick up possession down the right. He’s upended by a ludicrous tackle from behind by Otamendi. A booking, and a free kick in a very dangerous position, just to the right of the City box!
87 min: Jesus and Bernardo Silva exchange crisp passes down the left. Silva hits long towards Sterling, lurking to the right of the Chelsea goal. Cahill is forced to head behind for a corner. Fernandinho meets the set piece with his head, but it’s a weak effort, heading for the bottom right. Courtois claims.
85 min: Gundogan comes on for Sane, City looking to see this one out in the professional manner. His first move is to send Sterling into acres down the right. Sterling loops long for Jesus, who opens his body up and sidefoots a powerful volley towards the right-hand portion of the net. Courtois is beaten, so it’s lucky that Rudiger is on hand to block. The resulting corner comes to nothing. What a move that was by City, and what a shot by Jesus. A fine, fine defensive block by Rudiger denied a picture-book goal.
83 min: Jesus takes a ball from the air and kills it with one touch. He slides a pass right for Sterling, who can’t return it with interest for the tap-in. Chelsea are beginning to take risks at the back.
81 min: City stroke it around the back in the clock-bothering style. It’s textbook game management. Chelsea buzz about in frustration.
79 min: Ederson kicks the ball this time. Pantomime boos.
78 min: Batshuayi crosses from the left. Delph misses his clearance, allowing Azpilicueta to pick up possession to the right of goal. But his whipped cross from the byline is confidently picked by Ederson. The keeper flings the ball out in the basketball style, coming pretty close to running out of his own box as he does so. The crowd scream for a free kick, but they’re not getting it.
77 min: Alonso romps down the left, and his low cross isn’t far away from finding Pedro in the box. Then Fabregas nearly slips Pedro clear down the middle, but the pass is a little overcooked. Chelsea have finally upped their game.
76 min: City swap their Silvas. David off, Bernardo on.
75 min: Azpilicueta sends a ball into the City box from the right. With Batshuayi lurking, Otamendi is forced to bundle the ball out for a corner. Stones deals with the set piece. Chelsea need more of this, and quickly.
73 min: The rain is coming down now. Willian lands on the sodden turf, having just taken an accidental arm from Otamendi in the face. He’ll be OK to continue, by the looks of it, but that was a sore clatter.
71 min: City are still dominating possession. Chelsea have to make a couple of changes. And so on come Pedro and Batshuayi, in place of Hazard and Bakayoko.
69 min: City did quite a lot of cavorting after that goal. They deserve to be in the lead; it came just before frustration set in, having just missed a series of chances. It was their 14th attempt on goal.
It’s fair to say this had been coming. De Bruyne, perhaps frustrated at watching his team-mates blow chances with over-elaboration, keeps it basic and simple … albeit with some style. He powers down the middle of the park, drifting right to left slightly, then smacks a stunning riser into the top right! Belt! Courtois had no chance whatsoever! What a player De Bruyne is, and that really is some strike!
66 min: Room for Sterling in the Chelsea box on the right, set free by Walker. He cuts back for Silva, who must score from the penalty spot. But instead of shooting first time, he takes a touch, and his shot is eventually blocked. City come again, Sterling crossing from the right. Silva was waiting to tap home, but Jesus flicks the ball away from his own man. Chances being spurned here.
65 min: De Bruyne, deep on the right, curls low into the Chelsea box. Jesus sticks a boot out, but can’t connect 12 yards out. The ball sails through to Courtois, who claims easily.
63 min: City get back on the ball. Tap-tap-tap. Sterling makes off down the left suddenly, and nearly breaks into the box, but the ever-superb Azpilicueta sticks to his shoulder and eventually hustles him out of it.
61 min: Fabregas wrong-foots a sleepy City by shaping to shoot, then sliding a pass down the left. Hazard has the ball at his feet in the box. He shoots hard from a tight angle, and Ederson parries well. City have been in total control since the restart, but they’re beginning to allow Chelsea back into the game.
60 min: So having said that, out comes Martin Atkinson’s yellow card for the first time. It’s Fernandinho, who has severely tested the ref’s patience 60 seconds after getting a good talking-to, by clipping an in-full-flight Hazard. Free kick, 30 yards out.
59 min: Willian wants to burst off down the right wing. Fernandinho cynically barges him off the ball. Free kick, but no booking, which is fairly generous in today’s climate. Still, the ref has been even-handed with his laissez-faire decision-making tonight, so nobody really complains. The crowd don’t even bother getting irate.
56 min: Sterling dribbles in the troublesome style down the left and into the Chelsea box. He can’t get a cross or shot away. The ball breaks to Silva, whose shot isn’t up to much. It’s deflected out for a throw, and the danger is gone.
54 min: Another City attack, as Sane and Jesus chase after a ball down the inside right and into the area. Sane is lightly tapped by Alonso, and goes down wanting a penalty. Nope! They earn a corner, though, from which Sterling has time on the edge of the area to line up a shot towards the top right. He gets far too much oomph behind it. Goal kick.
52 min: Hazard and Willian try to combine down the left wing, hoping to launch a rare Chelsea attack. But Chelsea’s passes aren’t sticking. Frustration plays across their coupons.
51 min: Jesus scampers after a ball prodded down the right wing. He clatters into Christensen, and wants a penalty kick. He’s not going to get it. An honest shoulder charge, the defender easing his man off the ball.
49 min: … nothing much happens. But Chelsea struggled to keep hold of the ball in the first half, and City are immediately back on top in this second period. They’re hogging possession.
48 min: Sterling lifts a gentle pass down the right wing to send Jesus zipping towards the Chelsea area. Rudiger is forced to slide out for a corner. De Bruyne takes. Willian clears, but City are soon coming back at their hosts. Fernandinho, Silva and Sterling combine beautifully down the left, the latter reaching the byline and earning another corner. From which …
47 min: City are immediately on the front foot, Sane probing down the left and nearly breaking into the box. He earns a throw which leads to nothing. Silva has a wee look down the same flank. He’s upended by Rudiger. The free kick is tapped backwards. Finally Otamendi tries to send Sane scampering down the wing, but his pass clanks into touch.
Here we go again! No further changes. Chelsea – after being made to wait by City – set the ball rolling for the second period.
Half-time reading: To mark the 40th anniversary of Pele’s retirement. Love, love, love.
This is what can happen when you get two tactical geniuses in the dugouts. It’s been interesting … but not particularly exciting. City have had the upper hand, by 309 to 130 passes, give or take. And Courtois has been the more active keeper. A fascinating second half awaits us!
45 min: Free kick for City, deep on the right. De Bruyne sends a glorious curler into the box. Azpilicueta is forced to stick out a toe and poke the ball out for a corner on the right. De Bruyne takes, and Fernandinho meets it with a crashing header, 12 yards out! It looks like it’s the opening goal, but Courtois makes a stunning reaction save, the ball heading for the bottom right at pace.
43 min: De Bruyne faffs around in the midfield, letting Bakayoko make off with the ball in the candy-from-baby style. He drives down the left, glides inside, then looks to release Azpilicueta free down the right with a crossfield pass. He’d have managed it, too, were it not from an excellent sliding interception from Delph. An uncharacteristically dozy moment from the normally outstanding De Bruyne, though. Very strange.
41 min: More pretty City triangles. Eventually Sterling comes in from the right. De Bruyne gets involved, and curls one towards the far post. Jesus eyebrows it on, in the hope of finding Sane, coming in from the left. But he gets too much on it, and the ball flies harmlessly out of play for a goal kick.
39 min: Free kick for Chelsea out on the left, Willian stopped illegally by De Bruyne. Chelsea load the box. Willian takes, and his delivery is preposterously bad, blootered straight into the only man standing ten yards away. There goes that danger, too.
37 min: City tap it around quite a lot. Then Silva dribbles at intense speed into the box from the left, and fires a low pass into the centre, where there are three burgundy shirts waiting to take up possession. However, the referee blows, possibly for offside, possibly an obstruction. It’s not clear. But the attack is over.
35 min: Morata’s match is over. He feels the back of his leg, and limps off, shaking his head. No risk taken with a tight hamstring. Willian comes on in his place, Chelsea taking the opportunity to beef up their midfield a wee bit.
33 min: Fernandinho tries to release Sterling down the inside-right channel with a flat, hard diagonal pass. It’s an ambitious idea, all right, but it very nearly comes off. Just a few inches ahead of Sterling. Goal kick.
31 min: De Bruyne makes off down the right. His low cross earns a corner. Otamendi meets the set piece with his head, six yards out, but the effort flashes well wide left of goal.
30 min: Silva one-twos at pace with Sane down the left, and unleashes a low shot towards the bottom left which is well parried by Courtois. Chelsea go up the other end. Hazard lob-wedges an outrageously good pass down the right to release Kante into the City area. But City have pushed up, and that’s offside.
28 min: Morata spins and sashays his way down the inside-left channel, earning his side a corner. The set piece comes to nothing, but Chelsea are beginning to work their way back into this match after a slightly impotent spell.
26 min: Azpilicueta crosses from the right looking for Morata. It’s half cleared. Azpilicueta picks it up again, and shoots from the right-hand corner of the area. Ederson half-saves, half-spills, and that’s a corner. He makes up for that slightly nervous moment by plucking the set piece out of the air with great confidence. City stream up the other end, through Sterling down the right. His low cross somehow evades Silva at the far post. Phew.
25 min: Azpilicueta sends Delph tumbling as the City man makes good down the left. A free kick and another chance to put it into the mixer. But this time they opt to take it short and whistle it around in pretty triangles for a while. Mixing it up. Eventually Sane adds some zip down the left and very nearly finds De Bruyne on the edge of the Chelsea box. But it’s not an accurate pass.
23 min: Stones, all fixed, is back and in the thick of it, by the way.
22 min: Chelsea are struggling to get out of their final third right now. City are closing the hosts down at great speed, and snapping into the tackles as well. They’ve made 161 passes to Chelsea’s 57 so far.
20 min: City push Chelsea back with some of their new-fangled relentless passing. Eventually the ball drops to Delph, who looks to lash a shot goalwards from 25 yards. It clanks off Rudiger and out for a corner. The set piece is worked back out to De Bruyne, who from a deep position on the right, looks for Stones by the left-hand post. Under pressure from Rudiger, he heads wide and goes down. And he looks to have hurt his finger, or perhaps his wrist, can’t quite see, as he fell. He’s busy getting the end of his arm taped up now.
18 min: Another free kick for City in the middle of Chelsea territory. City pack the box, and De Bruyne does the old-fashioned thing of sticking it in the mixer, hoping someone will stick their nut on it at the back stick. Wallop! He overcooks it, and the ball flies out of play for a goal kick. City are not afraid to mix it up.
16 min: Kante gives the ball away in the centre circle. Silva threatens to break clear down the left, with options inside. But he hesitates, allowing Bakayoko to put a stop to his gallop.
14 min: This is lovely end-to-end, ping-pong entertainment. Ping! Hazard nearly sets Azpilicueta free down the Chelsea right. Ping! De Bruyne tries a cross from the City right. Pong! Alonso looks to have set Morata clear past a rashly sliding Walker down the Chelsea left, but the flag goes up for offside. The correct decision, but that was poor from Walker, whose intercept-or-bust slide nearly cost City dear.
12 min: Walker goes on another power jog down the middle of the park. For a second, it looks as though he’ll go the whole way, but eventually he’s surrounded. He flicks the ball to Silva on his left. From the left of the D, Silva tries to thread a shot into the bottom right. Not quite. Goal kick. From which Courtois faffs around, and his clearance is blocked by Jesus. The ball could go anywhere – in the net, for example, for the keeper is on the edge of his six-yard box – but the gods are good to him, and it balloons over the crossbar.
9 min: Fabregas has options: Morata on his left, Azpilicueta wide right. He gets caught in two minds, and plays an uncharacteristically witless ball down the middle. City mop up easily. City have seen more of the ball in these opening exchanges, but Chelsea will gain succour from that little half-chance of a dangerous attack, even if it wasn’t taken.
7 min: Otamendi and Bakayoko come together in the midfield, both sliding in to win a 50-50. The Chelsea player comes off worse, and grimaces quite a lot. When the game eventually restarts, Rudiger takes an age to make a common-or-garden clearance upfield, and is nearly robbed by Silva, closing his man down in the fashionable style. He gets away with a lazy one.
6 min: City stroke it around the middle of the park for a good 90 seconds or so. Suddenly Sterling turns on the jets, cutting in from the right and going over under a (fair) challenge from Rudiger. Sterling wanted the free kick, just to the right of the D, but he’s not getting it.
4 min: And now it’s a free kick to City, 30 yards from the Chelsea goal in the centre of the park. De Bruyne flashes a direct shot towards the top right, but it’s easily gathered by Courtois. This is already a lot of fun.
3 min: A fast start, this! Azpilicueta slips Kante free down the right. He reaches the box and chips towards the near post, where Morata flashes a header off target. He should have worked Ederson at least. A let-off for City.
2 min: Morata contests a high ball down the left wing. He’s unfairly nudged off the ball by Stones. Free kick, and it’s taken super-quickly by Fabregas, who nearly slides Morata free down the inside-left channel! Morata shifts to make space to shoot just inside the box, but Stones covers well, making up for his earlier error.
One last rousing blast of Blue Is The Colour … and we’re off! City get the ball rolling, and stroke it around the back awhile. Walker immediately thinks about bombing with pace and power down the middle, but can’t quite control. An early sign that City want to get on the front foot, though.
One of the big fixtures of this season coming right up! It could define an entire campaign, especially with Manchester United currently lording it at the top of the division, and not looking in the mood to slip up any time soon. Accordingly, there’s a wonderful anticipatory atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, the Home of the Champions, to quote a massive sign thrown up outside the place. No doubt everyone’s hoping for a cerebral tactical battle, but I’m simple folk, and a shapeless goalfest would do just fine. Or a bench-emptying brawl. Perhaps at various points we’ll get all three, and everyone will be happy*. Anyway, the players are out, Chelsea in their famous blue, Manchester City in second-choice burgundy. They players are shaking hands and tossing up;we’ll be off in a minute!
* Thinking-of-the-kids caveats may apply
Antonio talks! “There are players who maybe needed to rest, but I have picked a lot of players who played in Madrid. Victor Moses played the last two games, and expended a lot of energy. To play three games in seven days is not simple.”
Pep speaks! “Unfortunately Sergio had an accident. We are so happy he is not injured so dangerously. Fabian Delph is a guy who can play in several positions. He played really well in the Champions League so he continues to play.”
Chelsea make two changes to the team who were the bosses of Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night. David Luiz is suspended while Victor Moses drops to the bench. In come Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
City just make one swap from the side that saw off Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday, and it’s enforced. Sergio Agüero is out with a broken rib, so Raheem Sterling is the first cab off the rank.
Chelsea: Courtois, Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Kante, Bakayoko, Fabregas, Alonso, Hazard, Morata.
Subs: Caballero, Pedro, Moses, Kenedy, Zappacosta, Willian, Batshuayi.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Otamendi, Delph, De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva, Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Sterling.
Subs: Bravo, Danilo, Gundogan, Mangala, Bernardo Silva, Alexander Zinchenko, Toure.
… in which the champions Chelsea, increasingly impressive after a slow-ish start, welcome the freewheeling Manchester City, who have scored 16 times in their last three Premier League outings. City are on a seven-game winning streak; Chelsea have won seven of their last eight. Good luck predicting this fixture, then, especially upon consideration of City’s last three visits to Stamford Bridge, which have ended 5-1, 0-3 and 2-1.
No Sergio Agüero, but it’ll be star-studded nonetheless. It’s on, and it kicks off at 5.30pm BST.
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