Manchester City vs Chelsea: Five Key Battles

With both Manchester City and Chelsea seemingly having ceded the title race after a run of indifferent form, this clash between 2nd and 3rd might not be as important as it could have been, but both Rafa Benitez and Roberto Mancini will be desperate to prove their worth by picking up three points on Sunday.

Here is a run-down of the key battles...

Sergio Aguero vs Branislav Ivanovic

Whilst Aguero is yet to hit the form he demonstrated for much of last season, there's no doubting his quality and the goal he scored against Liverpool was a timely reminder he can find the net from unexpected places. Rafa Benitez has been loath to thrust John Terry back into the first team since his injury, and it's likely he will continue pick Ivanovic at centre back this weekend. The Serbian defender has been Chelsea most reliable man at the back for most of the season, and will need to be at his best to stay on top of Sergio Aguero this Sunday.

David Silva vs David Luiz

Silva is another man who has underwhelmed this season, and his lack of form has been a key factor in City's disappointing year. If he fails to spark again on Sunday the home side might struggle to break down Chelsea's defences, especially if Benitez sets up conservatively at the Etihad. Daivd Luiz has enjoyed his time in the centre of midfield so far, and could remain there to counter City's attacking midfielders. Whilst he is shown an aptitude for the role, Luiz could be pulled out of position by City's more experienced midfield players, and will need to be careful he doesn't let Silva find room in the final third.

Gareth Barry vs Juan Mata

Whilst City's Spanish maestro has failed to fire, Chelsea's Juan Mata has been wonderful this season, standing out as the key man in their side time and time again. Roberto Mancini will know that allowing Mata to have time and space regularly is tantamount to giving up the match, and will no doubt instruct others to aid Barry and his midfield in tracking the Spaniard. However plenty of sides have already failed to halt Mata so far this season, and if he's on his game again on Sunday, Chelsea will always have a chance.

Pablo Zabaleta vs Eden Hazard

Zabaleta's form has been a bright spark in City's season so far, with the Argentinian nailing down his place in the first team with a string of excellent performances in the sky blue shirt. He will be tasked with keeping tabs on Eden Hazard on Sunday with the Belgian delivering some of best performances since the opening matches of the season in recent weeks, but Zabaleta will also know that Hazard's disinclination to track back reliably might give him room to join City's attack. If he keeps Hazard under wraps at the back, Zabaleta could also be vital for City going forward, providing the width sometimes lacking in their attacks.

Yaya Toure vs Frank Lampard

Lampard's form since his return from injury has been sensational, with the midfielder desperate to either break some records before he leaves Chelsea, or even play his way to a new contract. Toure is another man who has been relatively poor this season, but will be keen to start demonstrating something like the form he displayed in the run in last year. Both have a goal in them, and Toure will need to monitor Lampard's runs forward, whilst also looking to dominate the centre of the park himself.

images: © wonker, © Live4Soccer

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