Battle of Kevin de Bruyne v Eden Hazard and other talking points as Man City face Chelsea

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City are looking to do the double over Chelsea after winning at Stamford Bridge.

Manchester City and Chelsea have had an intriguing rivalry in recent years. They’ve never quite met in the thick of a title race, but individual clashes have been significant and memorable.

They meet again on Sunday with Chelsea 22 points behind Premier League leaders City, and outside the top four after their loss to Manchester United last week.

So it’s safe to say the Blues need the win more their hosts do, with Pep Guardiola’s side on the cusp of securing another league crown.

Here are three talking points ahead of Sunday’s game.

DID BARCA CLASH GIVE CHELSEA THE BLUEPRINT TO STOP CITY?

There were fears that Chelsea, given their form leading into the game, were in for an embarrassing result against Barcelona last month. Yet on the day, they didn’t just provide spirited resistance, they were the better side, both in performance and in tactics.

The improved display in the 1-1 draw came about due to a commitment to an energetic pressing game, which saw them ensure they never let Barcelona feel comfortable on the ball. What was impressive was the way Chelsea’s wing-backs pressed the Barcelona full-backs high up the pitch, with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso never letting Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto settle.

That performance could serve as the blueprint for how Antonio Conte sets up his side against City. Moses and Alonso can harass Kyle Walker and Danilo into mistakes, or at least prevent them from tearing down the flanks.

Meanwhile, N’Golo Kante can shadow Kevin de Bruyne, leaving Cesc Fabregas or Danny Drinkwater free to pick out a pass.

City have shown they can be vulnerable to a disciplined, incessant press. Liverpool deployed it to great effect in handing Pep Guardiola’s side their only league defeat this season.

Between that game and Chelsea’s own experience against Barca, Conte’s gameplan seems pretty straightforward.

Victor Moses starred in Chelsea's draw against Barcelona.

Victor Moses starred in Chelsea’s draw against Barcelona.

HAZARD, DE BRUYNE PLAY FOR BELGIAN BRAGGING RIGHTS

Although Kante won the Player of the Year gong last year, there was plenty of recognition for Eden Hazard being the best player in the league.

But on Sunday, he may not even be the best player from his country on the pitch. There’s a consensus that what Hazard was last year, De Bruyne is this year – with Guardiola going as far as to say only Lionel Messi is better than De Bruyne right now.

The two Belgian playmakers going toe-to-toe is the headline clash of this fixture.

Arguably, Hazard is the one with more to prove – his big-game credentials have always been doubted, and he didn’t do himself any favours last weekend when he ended up being man-marked out of the game by Man United youngster Scott McTominay.

He was excellent in the first half, and assisted Chelsea’s goal, but being substituted with a large chunk of the second period remaining said it all.

De Bruyne lit up the first meeting between these sides at Stamford Bridge back in September with a superb goal, and on Sunday he’ll look to produce an encore.

Belgium's preeminent playmakers go head to head.

Belgium’s preeminent playmakers go head to head.

CAN KOMPANY PLAY THREE GAMES IN A WEEK?

Speaking of brilliant Belgian players, Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany may have something to say about who the best player from his country is.

Kompany was man-of-the-match in the League Cup final on Sunday, scoring a goal and leading the back line with aplomb. But he raised eyebrows by being named in the starting XI for City’s Premier League fixture against Arsenal on Thursday as well.

Two games in five days for the famously injury-prone centre-back? That was an encouraging sign, and Kompany backed it up by lasting the full 90 minutes yet again, looking untroubled by any fitness issues.

Having Kompany fit is a huge boon for City – on top form and fit, he’s arguably the best centre-back in England.

It was impressive that he played the full game twice in a row within such a short time span, but Sunday’s clash may be a step too far. With John Stones a more than capable deputy, there’s no reason to risk Kompany at all, and Guardiola may choose to not test his club captain’s fitness by playing him for the third time in eight days. It may be time to wrap Kompany in wool again.

Is three games in eight days too much for City's captain?

Is three games in eight days too much for City’s captain?

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Chelsea boss Antonio Conte admits Man City are 'unstoppable'

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Antonio Conte claims Manchester City are “unstoppable” as the Italian appeared to lament Chelsea’s failure to match his own ambition as a “winner”.

The Blues, Premier League champions in Conte’s first season last term, are 22 points behind Sunday’s opponents.

Pep Guardiola’s side, Carabao Cup winners last Sunday and 3-0 winners at Arsenal on Thursday night, have a 16-point lead entering this weekend’s fixtures.

“In this moment they seem unstoppable,” Conte said on Friday.

“We must have great admiration. Sometimes it’s very difficult to find a weakness in this team.”

City finished third, 15 points behind Chelsea, in Guardiola’s first season in charge, but now are champions-elect.

Asked the reason for the turnaround in such a short space of time, Conte’s answer hinted at his season-long frustration with Chelsea.

“When you work very well and there is a great feeling between the manager and the club, you can work in the way you want, to try to improve your team in the best way,” Conte added.

“Manchester City has the possibility to spend a lot of money. When you link this situation, good manager, much money to spend in the transfer market, the same ambition, this is the final result.”

Conte has scarcely tried to hide his disappointment at Chelsea’s transfer activity since the title success last May.

The 48-year-old, whose future remains the subject of speculation, added: “I have great ambition, but I don’t have money to spend for Chelsea.

“The coach has to work every day, work very hard. The club has to show the ambition.

“The club knows very well what is my idea, what is my ambition, what is my will.

“That ambition must always be the same. When you decide to work with this type of coach, you must understand that you take a coach with great ambition. Not a loser but a winner.

“When you start, you have to continue to build something important with the coach.

“It’s very important to have the coach and the club with the same ambition: to improve your team, to improve your idea of football, to improve the quality of your players.

“If you find this situation, probably the season will finish with success. You can win the league, a cup, the cup and league, the Champions League.”

Asked if Chelsea share his ambition, Conte refused to answer.

He added: “I don’t want to talk about this. Now it’s important to stay focused on the present. These topics are for the future.”

He expects City to get better and better and build on this season – something he evidently feels Chelsea did not do following their title win.

“The situation is going to improve. Not to stop, but to improve for them,” he added.

“Now, it will be very difficult for other teams to fight Manchester City.”

Chelsea are seeking to avoid three successive away Premier League defeats for the first time in five years, but with their title hopes long since over.

Conte, who could have Ross Barkley back following a hamstring problem but remains without David Luiz, Ethan Ampadu and Tiemoue Bakayoko, said: “The league finished this season. Manchester City won it in the first part of the season.

“This must be a great frustration for me, for my players, for my club. If your name is Chelsea, you have to try to fight until the end.”

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Arsenal are No. 1 in one metric - how much fans pay to watch the club

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Arsenal earn more revenue from ticket sales than any other club.

Arsenal pull in more money from gate receipts than any other club in Europe, although that could be about to change soon.

In the 2016-17 season, the Gunners pulled in €135million, topping all of Europe despite having only the continent’s sixth-highest attendance (Barcelona led that metric with 1.48 million spectators for the season).

They also ranked 1st in average gate revenue per spectator, at €98million, and 2nd, behind Real Madrid, in average per match, with €5million.

However, the numbers also show that the north London club may have an over-reliance on ticket revenue.

They earn 28% of their total revenue from gate receipts, more than any other club in the top 10, and with fans losing faith in the club, that puts the Premier League club in a precarious position.

Indeed, figures show that despite the strong overall gate revenue numbers, Arsenal had the third-lowest increase in gate receipts last season among the top 10 clubs in Europe.

Fans have also been complaining about prices, with Arsenal having the most expensive tickets at both ends of English football’s pricing spectrum.

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