The Hard Tackle lists three players who can create a major impact when Chelsea and Manchester City clash at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Gameweek 12 of the 2023/24 Premier League season will end on Sunday with a marquee fixture, as Chelsea and Manchester City lock horns at Stamford Bridge. While the home side will be eager to climb to eighth in the Premier League standings, the visitors can consolidate their spot atop the table with three points.

Chelsea would have been buoyed by the big win over Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, even though the two red cards were big factors in the result. The Blues have improved under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino, even if the results do not always reflect that.

On the other hand, Manchester City began the campaign with a hit-and-miss run of form. They even suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Wolverhampton Wanderers to drop as low as third on the table while bowing out of the EFL Cup in the third round. But Pep Guardiola’s men have bounced back with five consecutive wins to rise to the top of the standings.

Chelsea’s recent performances against Manchester City have been uninspiring, often going on a run without scoring a goal. So, Pochettino and his charges will be eager to turn the tide against the defending champions. But that will require a few players to stand up a singlehandedly influence the proceedings. So will Manchester City, as The Hard Tackle lists three “key players” for Sunday’s marquee fixture.

Julian Alvarez

Erling Haaland will invariably be under the spotlight, as he is in every Manchester City game. But his strike partner has often outperformed the Norwegian superstar in the bigger matches since the start of last season. So, our first pick is Julian Alvarez.

The Argentine international had to bide his time before becoming a regular for Manchester City last season. But he has not looked back since establishing a foothold at the Etihad, with his exploits at the 2022 FIFA World Cup helping his cause. Meanwhile, the 23-year-old has captured the attention of high-profile clubs like Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Alvarez tends to reserve his best for the big occasion, and playing in the shadows of Erling Haaland has lifted the pressure off his shoulders. It has also allowed him to add layers to his game, and his ghosting runs have become a trademark feature of his gameplay.

The World Cup winner is also the first-choice free-kick taker for Manchester City. So, he will pose an additional threat from the dead balls, while his passing ability will bring Haaland into the picture when he is not in a scoring position.

Raheem Sterling

Sunday’s fixture will feature a few players against their former clubs. While Cole Palmer will face his former club for the first time since joining Chelsea, Mateo Kovacic will go head-to-head with his ex-Chelsea teammates. But we have gone with Raheem Sterling for the second spot on our list.

The English international has blown hot and cold since joining Chelsea, failing to capture the scoring touch that was the hallmark of his game at Manchester City. But he has gradually picked up form, finding his feet with every passing month.

Sterling has been the most threatening player for Chelsea, with Mauricio Pochettino’s system bringing the best out of him. His burst of pace can leave Kyle Walker in a spot of bother, while his link-up play with Conor Gallagher will allow him to appear at the end of goalscoring chances.

Cole Palmer is Chelsea’s most productive player since his arrival at the West London club. But if Sterling rises to the occasion, the Blues have a greater chance of upsetting the reigning Premier League champions while galvanising his team.

Nicolas Jackson

As is usually the case with these lists, we end our feature with a player from the team with a lower chance of grabbing the three points. So, we have gone ahead with Nicolas Jackson, who will be on cloud nine after his performance on Monday.

The Senegalese international needed a glut of chances to find the back of the net multiple times when Chelsea faced Tottenham Hotspur earlier this week. But the match-winning hat-trick will have a “monkey off the back” effect on Jackson, who has not been prolific thus far in his Chelsea stint.

Meanwhile, that hat-trick has taken Jackson to the top of Chelsea’s scoring charts this season, with six goals to his name thus far. While that number does not inspire much confidence, he is close to bettering the tally of Chelsea’s top scorer from the 2022/23 campaign.

That can be the starting point for Jackson to take his game to the next level after proving a point to his naysayers. As for Sunday’s game, the 22-year-old needs to produce his trademark rampaging runs into the Manchester City box to catch the visitors’ defenders off-guard. Doing so can bamboozle Manchester City and allow the other attackers to come into the picture to pounce on any openings.

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