Manchester City vs Chelsea: Three key players to look out for

The Hard Tackle lists three players who can singlehandedly influence the upcoming game between Manchester City and Chelsea.

The curtains are about to fall on the 2022/23 Premier League season, which will end in a week. And only a few eye-catching heavyweight clashes remain before the campaign closes. One such fixture will pit Manchester City against Chelsea, with the two teams clashing at the Etihad on Sunday evening.

Manchester City had to take the scenic route to defend the Premier League crown this season. But even though Arsenal remained perched atop the table for nearly 250 days, normal services resumed a few weeks ago. And the Gunners’ defeat to Nottingham Forest on Saturday has sealed the title triumph for Pep Guardiola’s men.

On the other hand, Chelsea and the club’s fans will want the 2022/23 season to end as soon as possible. The campaign has been a disaster of epic proportions, wrought with dreadful decision-making and conflict. And Frank Lampard is the fourth manager to take charge of the West London club this term. But despite the presence of a familiar face in the dugout, the results have barely improved. And Chelsea will finish the season outside the top half.

Despite Chelsea’s waning stature, the match remains a heavyweight clash. And naturally, as is often the case, a few players will singlehandedly determine the game’s final result. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle lists three figures who can positively influence Sunday’s fixture.

Ilkay Gundogan

Our list begins with a Manchester City midfielder who has set the stage alight in the last few weeks. And while his future remains uncertain, he continues to make his mark on the field. The player in question is the hosts’ Captain Fantastic, Ilkay Gundogan.

Gundogan came into the 2022/23 season after two campaigns where he became a prolific scorer. But he was in and out of the starting lineup before the World Cup break and had to earn his spot as the undisputed first-choice midfielder. And the veteran midfielder has done exactly that, even as widespread reports continue to link him with Barcelona.

Barcelona might even have to compete with Arsenal in the race to sign the 32-year-old. But the Manchester City captain is not letting the transfer talk affect his form. And after being among the goals in the last few weeks, he will be eager to continue the phenomenal form on Sunday.

The experienced midfielder will threaten the vulnerable Chelsea defence with his ghosting runs. At the same time, Gundogan will channel Manchester City’s aggression with his no-nonsense defending behind the ball. Expect him to bring his A-Game to the fore this weekend.

Raheem Sterling

Our list continues to have a Manchester City flavour, although this player now represents the other team. We are, of course, talking about Raheem Sterling, who left the reigning Premier League champions to join Chelsea last summer.

Sterling’s decision to join Chelsea after leaving Manchester City should have been a shot in the arm for the West London club. But such have been their struggles this season that the Blues have dragged the former Manchester City attacker down with their slump.

No longer is the English international a prolific scorer who finds the back of the net to win his side crucial points. And Sterling has endured a rare campaign which will end with a single-digit tally for Premier League strikes, with goals eluding Chelsea all season long.

But with the 28-year-old visiting his old stomping ground, he will be desperate to stamp his authority and roll back the years in front of the Etihad faithful. And if he rises to the occasion, the visitors might give their hosts a run for their money on Sunday. Maybe giving a guard of honour to his former teammates might fire him up.

Enzo Fernandez

Our list began with a midfielder and ends with the other facet of the midfield battle that will hold the key to the final result. And with N’Golo Kante unavailable to take on Manchester City, this player will have even more onus on him to shore up the midfield unit. We are talking about Enzo Fernandez.

The Argentine international joined Chelsea from Benfica on the back of winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup with his national team. But the highs of lifting the sought-after trophy and enjoying a scintillating campaign with Benfica have given way to the frustrations at Chelsea.

While Fernandez has been one of the best performers for Chelsea in the last few months, he can only do so much on his own. But if the Blues are to thwart Manchester City at the Etihad, the 22-year-old must be at his resolute best on Sunday.

The youngster needs to read the game smartly and keep track of Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne. And if he succeeds, Chelsea might snatch a point from a daunting venue. That said, he has a tall order in front of him to help the visiting team salvage something from the clash.

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