Football: Blues can end City hopes

Chelsea's Diego Costa getting stuck in against Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in the Blues' shock 1-2 loss on Saturday. The Brazil-born Spain forward wants to reignite his earlier dominant form, having scored 13 league goals until Christmas but on
Chelsea's Diego Costa getting stuck in against Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in the Blues' shock 1-2 loss on Saturday. The Brazil-born Spain forward wants to reignite his earlier dominant form, having scored 13 league goals until Christmas but only four since then.PHOTO: REUTERS

Conte just wants rebound after loss to Palace while Pep's side look to strengthen top-4 spot

LONDON • Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side can become the first team to win both league games in a season against a team managed by Pep Guardiola.

Following up December's 3-1 result at the Etihad Stadium with another victory over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge today will also see Guardiola suffer six league defeats in a single season for the first time in his managerial career.

But Conte insisted yesterday that such statistics do not interest him.

"Guardiola and me won't be thinking about that. Tomorrow is a game that we want to win and also Manchester City want to win," the Italian told a press conference.

What he wants is a response to Saturday's defeat at home by Crystal Palace and a composed performance, particularly as the reverse fixture was an ill-tempered contest in which Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off and players and coaching staff from both English Premier League teams were involved in a melee on the touchline.

HIGH-STAKES CONTEST

This game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win... they will (effectively) be out of the title race while we keep the advantage.

DIEGO COSTA, Chelsea striker, on the importance of their match against Manchester City.

 

"When you play against City, it's really important to have good attention, above all without the ball," he said. "But you must also pay attention when you attack because they have good players to play counter-attack: Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Sergio Aguero, but also Kevin de Bruyne.

"We're talking about a great team with a great coach."

The hosts are 11 points ahead of City and Chelsea's leading scorer, Diego Costa, knows the Blues can effectively end City's title hopes today.

"This game against City will be a six-point affair since if we win... they will (effectively) be out of the title race while we keep the advantage," the Brazil-born Spain international, who has scored 17 league goals this season but only four since Christmas, told ESPN Brazil.

Guardiola, however, suggested that the clash is important to City for different reasons - to cement their position in the top four and for the development of their players.

"Chelsea will be a big game and especially a big game away, it is important to learn from these kinds of games for the future," the City manager told reporters yesterday.

"It is so important for all six teams to qualify for the Champions League," he added, referring to City, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. "To be in Europe is so important. In financial terms and in prestige.

"(Chelsea) play fewer games, they have more time to prepare. But Chelsea will be in Europe next year and they have the quality...

"Chelsea deserve to be where they are, they have won a lot of games and deserve their position."

Guardiola also confirmed that Gabriel Jesus has returned to training after breaking his foot.

The Brazil star scored three times in his first four City games and is still not expected to be available for selection for several weeks.

"Yesterday is the first day he started to walk and run on the pitch," he added. " I don't know exactly how many weeks he needs to come back but I think he's at the end of the process. Hopefully he can help us at the end of the season."

Right-back Bacary Sagna remains sidelined but Pablo Zabaleta is fit and ready to play.

Chelsea wing-back Victor Moses is a doubt after missing the Palace game with a calf strain, which saw Pedro fill in on the right flank.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHELSEA V MAN CITY

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2017, with the headline 'Blues can end City hopes'. Print Edition | Subscribe