Chelsea will look to maintain their top four credentials in the Premier League when they face arguably their toughest test of the season so far, away to Manchester City on Sunday.
The race for to finish in the Champions League places is well and truly at boiling point, with a refreshed Manchester United side bearing down on the Blues under the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Now is as good a time as ever for Maurizio Sarri to implement his system into the minds of the players.
However, Pep Guardiola’s City faces just as big of a fight. Liverpool’s recent stuttering form has allowed the Sky Blues to close the gap at the summit of the table.
Courtesy of Premier League match ratings provided by WhoScored.com, we have taken a look at the best performers between the two sides over the course of the campaign.
Goalkeeper: Ederson (Manchester City) 6.62
It is fair to say that City have the perfect goalkeeper for the Guardiola system in the name of Ederson. The ability to start from the back is pivotal, as the Brazilian has barely put a foot wrong since joining the club at the start of last season.
Ederson has played 26 times and has contributed to 20 wins, 11 of those ending in clean sheets. This is level with Sunday’s opponent Kepa Arrizabalaga and joint-second only to Liverpool’s Alisson who has 13.
Centre-back: César Azpilicueta (Chelsea) 7.01
Stand-in captain César Azpilicueta will go down in the Chelsea history books as one of the most hard-working players this club has seen. A fan favourite with the Blues’ faithful, it’s difficult to imagine a Chelsea side the doesn’t include the Spanish warrior in recent times.
In his 25 league appearances so far, the Spaniard has accumulated an average of 1.6 clearances per game, which is more than City’s Kyle Walker, averaging 1.1 per match.
Centre-back: David Luiz (Chelsea) 7.21
Despite criticism from fans about his lack of ability to play in a back four under Sarri, he has proven his doubters wrong as he remains a mainstay in the side.
His game has undoubtedly improved in defence and he even managed to score in the 5-0 humiliation of Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge. The defensive-minded playmaker has attempted a total of 1,893 passes in the back line, which is over 500 more than his City counterpart John Stones.
Centre-back: Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) 7.14
Marcos Alonso’s role in the first-team has recently come under threat after the performance from Emerson against Tottenham Hotspur in the Carabao Cup. However, there is no doubt that the side suffers without his presence, noted when the Blues suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat away to Bournemouth.
The attacking full-back, who is featuring in this side as a makeshift centre-back, has a staggering 22 key passes to his name this season, more than defender French Aymeric Laporte (eight).
Defensive-midfield: Fernandinho (Manchester City) 7.37
Despite being at the age of 33, Fernandinho somehow manages to perform like he is ten years younger.
His position under Guardiola seems to suit him down to the ground, having taken a Sergio Busquets-like role from when the Spanish manager was at Barcelona. The defensive-midfielder has 19 key passes to his name, which is followed closely by Jorginho (16).
Right-midfield: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) 7.66
Raheem Sterling’s career at the Etihad Stadium appears to be going from strength to strength, having been an integral part to the side ever since his arrival from Liverpool in 2015. He will be an undoubted threat on Sunday.
However, Sterling has only managed to score one goal and has lost six times in 12 appearances in all competitions against Sunday’s opponents. Sterling has an average of 4.7 dribbles per game, which blows away Willian, whose average is less than half of that managed by Sterling.
Centre-Midfield: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City) 7.13
When Bernardo Silva joined City in 2017, it was difficult to see how he could establish himself as a mainstay despite his talents, but he did just that and appeared in more games than any other player for the club last season as they went on to tear up the rest of the Premier League’s competition.
The Portuguese starlet has six assists in 25 league games, which outshines Pedro, who has managed only one assist in 20 appearances.
Centre-midfield: David Silva (Manchester City) 7.32
There isn’t much to say about David Silva that hasn’t already been said by fans and neutrals alike. Arguably City’s greatest player of all time, he has been at the centre of his club’s success ever since he touched down in Manchester in 2010. In 22 appearances in all competitions against Chelsea, he has seen victory on eight occasions and has provided seven assists.
The Spanish magician has a total of 49 key passes in 22 league appearances, whereas his midfield opponent Mateo Kovačić, has less than half of that (20).
Left-midfield: Leroy Sané (Manchester City) 7.40
City’s engine down the left flank is the German wonder-kid Leroy Sané. His ability to go from a standstill to a lighting run would be enough to terrify even the best of defenders.
Something that the Blues can take solace from is that Sane has not scored or provided an assist in six games against them in all competitions. Chelsea’s hard-working winger Pedro has made a total of 40 attempted dribbles. Despite the impressive statistic, it is less than half of Sané’s number of dribbles (83).
Striker: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) 7.54
The two words world and class come to mind when Sergio Agüero is ever discussed and it’s no different here. City’s all-time top goalscorer is up to his old tricks again this season. Having netted a wonderful hat-trick against Arsenal last weekend, he will look to make an impact again as he has scored 12 in his last 17 meetings with Chelsea in all competitions.
Agüero is City’s top goalscorer so far this season with 14 goals in 22 appearances, which is more than Chelsea’s top goalscorer Hazard, who has 12, which is just as impressive considering the Belgian has scored most of his goals from the left wing.
Striker: Eden Hazard (Chelsea) 7.80
The arrival of Gonzalo Higuaín has done wonders to lift the spirits of Eden Hazard. The brilliant Belgian now finds himself playing in his preferred wide role at the club, which is arguably where we see the best of Hazard.
Hazard tops the list of both squads combined with an average match rating of 7.80 out of 10, which shows the irreplaceable presence of the Belgian wizard. In 24 league appearances, Hazard has made an unbelievable 65 key passes, which is more than City’s highest-rated player Sterling, who has 51 key passes to his name.
By Darion Westwood