Man City must follow Tottenham’s high-intensity approach if they are to trouble in-form Chelsea on Saturday, says Jamie Redknapp.
Manchester City v Chelsea is the biggest game of the season so far – and it’s going to be a real test for these two title contenders.
Both teams have had a free week to prepare for Saturday’s showdown, so there can be no excuses from either camp. It’s going to be fascinating viewing.
Chelsea go into the game on the back of a seven-game winning run in the Premier League and I’ve been really impressed with how quickly Antonio Conte has transformed this team.
Within a blink of an eye they’ve gone from a team struggling, losing to Liverpool and Arsenal, to one that’s going to have a real go for the title.
Obviously the 3-4-3 system has had a big impact and there’s been a lot of talk about what that’s given to the team. But for me, N’Golo Kante has also been a crucial addition.
You only have to look at the loss he’s been for Leicester and the advantage he’s given Chelsea to understand his importance. He’s been a real boost.
His defensive role in midfield on Saturday will be absolutely crucial. It will be his job to stop City’s creative talents Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva – and no-one performs that task better. Nemanja Matic alongside him will provide important support, too.
That pairing, in front of a strong three-man defence, has made Chelsea a tough nut to crack in recent weeks. They’ve conceded just once in that seven-game winning run. But Tottenham showed Man City the way last weekend.
While Mauricio Pochettino’s team ultimately lost 2-1 to their London rivals at Stamford Bridge, for 44 minutes they appeared to have found the answer. They pressed high with intensity, didn’t let Chelsea breathe and pinned the wing-backs in their own half.
That’s what City need to do. They need to show that same desire and get after Chelsea.
However, that was their problem last season under Manuel Pellegrini. They took just two points from six games against the top three teams and all too often they didn’t appear to bring the application you need to win those big matches. That’s scandalous, given the quality of players they have.
It’s something Pep Guardiola must address. When City didn’t have the ball in the big matches last season, they didn’t have the organisation required. It was almost as though Pellegrini threw the team out on the pitch and said ‘we’ve got better players, we’re going to win’.
It doesn’t work like that. The most organised teams last year were Leicester and Tottenham, while City were too easily cut through when they didn’t have the ball.
So, it’s important Guardiola gets the balance right in midfield on Saturday. I’ve said before in this column that I don’t like it when City play Fernando and Fernandinho together.
On paper it looks good and solid but in reality it doesn’t work. The results suggest that and he’ll have to find another way to stop this Chelsea system. Ilkay Gundogan alongside Fernandinho would be my choice.
It’s a fascinating tactical battle between two of the top managers and top groups of players in the Premier League – and hopefully it will be a really exciting, open game.
But I don’t see Chelsea losing this one. I’m predicting a draw – and I reckon Conte will be happier with that outcome than Guardiola.