Chelsea host Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday lunchtime, the current league leaguers up against the defending champions at Stamford Bridge.
The clash shapes as a pivotal one even this early into the season’s title race, with Chelsea capable of moving six points clear of Pep Guardiola’s side with victory this weekend.
Thomas Tuchel’s side will be in confident mood following an unbeaten start to the campaign, but there are few tougher propositions in world football than Manchester City at present.
Ahead of the crucial clash, we’ve picked our Chelsea v Manchester City combined XI.
Goalkeeper: Edouard Mendy – Chelsea
Ederson ranks as one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League and is a unique option with his kicking ability, but it is difficult to overlook the solidity Edouard Mendy has provided to Chelsea since his arrival from Rennes.
The Senegal international has kept a staggering 29 clean sheets in just 50 appearances for the Blues, including 10 in just 13 Champions League games – with the 29-year-old named as UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year following Chelsea’s success in the competition last season.
Edouard Mendy's Champions League record:
▪️ 13 games
▪️ 10 clean sheets
▪️ 3 goals conceded
▪️ Champions League 🏆
▪️ UCL Keeper of the Year 2020-21 pic.twitter.com/4sII6whcLj
— B/R Football (@brfootball) September 15, 2021
Mendy is understood to be facing a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of Saturday’s showdown and his absence would be a major blow to a Chelsea side whose defensive strength has been second to none under Tuchel.
Right-back: Reece James – Chelsea
Reece James starts at right-back for our side ahead of England teammate Kyle Walker, with the former having enjoyed a more impressive start to the current campaign.
The 21-year-old has scored once and provided three assists in just four starts across all competitions, with his forward threat a potent weapon for Chelsea who have enjoyed much success with their wing-back system.
James expected assists (xA) per 90 minutes is the highest of any player in the Premier League this season, ahead of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Rodrigo.
Centre-back: Ruben Dias – Manchester City
Ruben Dias’ impact on the Manchester City side was recognised with the FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards last season, with the centre-back having transformed Pep Guardiola’s backline in 2020/21.
The Portugal international is authoritative and a leader for the City defence, combining traditional defensive qualities with an ability to step forward and begin attacks from deep.
No player in the division has completed more passes than Dias so far this season, who also ranks third for touches and second for progressive carrying distance.
Centre-back: Aymeric Laporte – Manchester City
Aymeric Laporte has returned to favour during the season’s early weeks and has provided a timely reminder of his qualities, the centre-back – linked with a summer exit – emerging as one of the Premier League’s best again.
Laporte leads the Premier League for pass completion so far this season with a huge 96.7%, averaging 8.89 progressive passes per 90 minutes and ranking sixth for passes into the final third, in an indication of his ability to set Manchester City on the front foot.
The natural left-footer brings balance to the backline for the champions and a resurgent Laporte edges out Thiago Silva and Antonio Rudiger in the most competitive position on our combined team sheet.
Left-back: Joao Cancelo – Manchester City
Marcos Alonso can count himself unfortunate here following a flying start to the season, but the Spaniard’s best performances come when given the assurance of three central defenders.
Joao Cancelo is named at left-back in our combined side, with the Portugal international quietly influential figure in Pep Guardiola’s winning machine.
Cancelo leads the Premier League for progressive passes so far this season, whilst he also ranks amongst the division’s top 10 players for interceptions, crosses, passes into the final third and passes into the penalty area.
Midfield: N’Golo Kante – Chelsea
Arguably the easiest selection in this side, N’Golo Kante has shown in recent months what a unique footballer he is, including a transformative impact as a substitute against Tottenham last weekend.
Kante’s influence on the Chelsea side was never clearer demonstrated than during their run to Champions League success last season, being named as man of the match in four consecutive knockout stage ties – including both legs of the semi-final and the final against Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola will be well aware of the impact Kante can have when operating as a whirlwind of energy and drive in midfield, but stopping him is another matter entirely.
Midfield: Jorginho – Chelsea
Jorginho’s talents took some time to be appreciated amongst English football fans, but there are few who now dispute his influence on the Chelsea side.
Jorginho’s ability to control and dictate proceedings from a deep role have made him a central figure for club and country, winning the Champions League and Euro 2020 – alongside UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year award – during an unforgettable 2021.
City will need to shut down Jorginho if they are to slow the west London side’s rhythm this weekend.
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City
The best player in the Premier League across the past two seasons is back amongst Pep Guardiola’s options, in a huge boost to the defending champions as they prepare to face Chelsea on Saturday.
De Bruyne averaged an assist every 167 minutes during an injury-hit 2020/21 campaign, his performances enough to see the brilliant Belgian join only Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo in winning successive PFA Player of the Year awards.
No better feeling! 🔙 pic.twitter.com/NVbyj0bKw9
— Kevin De Bruyne (@DeBruyneKev) September 15, 2021
Chelsea will be well aware of a talent who was allowed to leave west London after just nine appearances for the club, with De Bruyne having since scored four times against the Blues since signing for City.
Right-wing: Riyad Mahrez – Manchester City
Included in our combined side despite finding himself surprisingly on the fringes so far this season, Mahrez was amongst City’s key players during last season’s run to the Champions League final.
The Algerian delivered at vital moments against Borussia Dortmund and PSG, whilst he has scored four goals and provided two assists in just three starts across all competitions in 2021/22.
Mahrez’s match-winning ability earns him inclusion over Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden and an array of options for Chelsea, with Mason Mount in particular having so far struggled to find his form after a career-best season last term.
Left-wing: Jack Grealish – Manchester City
Manchester City made Jack Grealish the first £100m player in English football history this summer, with the record arrival having quickly made his mark on Pep Guardiola’s side.
Grealish has started every fixture for City in the Premier League and Champions League so far this season, scoring twice and providing two assists across those appearances.
He netted a wonderful first Champions League goal against RB Leipzig earlier this month, an example of the individual brilliance the England international can provide.
"Class from the £100m man!"
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 15, 2021
Grealish’s influence is also evidenced in his underlying statistics, leading the Premier League for progressive carries and passes into the penalty area, whilst ranking second for shot-creating actions and key passes.
Forward: Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku has made an immediate impact following his club-record arrival at Chelsea, scoring four goals in six appearances for the west Londoners since signing from Inter Milan.
Thomas Tuchel identified the Belgium international as the perfect player to spearhead his side’s title charge and Lukaku’s performances so far have indicated the club’s record investment was money well spent.
The 28-year-old combines pace with power and a clinical touch around goal, having scored 64 goals across the past two seasons in Italian football.
Lukaku’s three league goals leave him level with Cristiano Ronaldo and one behind leaders Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes and Michail Antonio, in what promises to be a fascinating race for the Golden Boot.
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