De Bruyne Returns to Stamford Bridge This Weekend

City midfielder De Bruyne

I always love this final stretch to the end the Premier League. It’s as close to a playoff atmosphere that you can really experience in the English top flight, and this weekend there’s another round of invaluable points on the line. On Saturday, Chelsea, whose supporters are ready for this disastrous season to be over, will host Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. Last year at this time, this fixture would’ve been a top-four clash, but now Chelsea find themselves firmly mid-table and Manchester City are just trying to hang out to fourth place. Can Guus Hiddink’s squad end the season with aplomb and deliver a potentially fatal blow to City’s top-four hopes?

Speaking of City, Manuel Pellegrini’s side are coming off one of the most historic weeks in the club’s history. Tuesday night, the Cityzens defeated Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 at the Etihad in order to secure a place in their first ever Champions League semifinals. During the match, City looked like a dominant side, and their star players showed their class. The only issue that I can see coming from this massive victory is the shortened rest period caused by it. City already have several key players out with injury and Pellegrini may be hesitant to play all of his big guns the full 90 minutes. They’ll need a fast start to the match so that their tired legs won’t have to endure a dramatic ending.

One of the players that was on the injury list for City in recent weeks has come back to make an immediate impact for the club. Kevin De Bruyne, who missed more than two months through injury, has quickly regained his place as one of City’s key players. In the first four games of his comeback, the Belgian midfielder has scored three times including the game winner against PSG. This match will have some added meaning for him, as well, after playing at Chelsea for two years earlier in his career. The Blues didn’t have much faith in De Bruyne’s abilities back then and now he may come back to haunt them. Don’t be surprised if he’s on the score sheet again Saturday.

Switching over to Chelsea, Guus Hiddink has been tinkering with his starting lineup during the last couple of fixtures. With virtually nothing left to fight for this season, Chelsea have given players like Matt Miazga, Alexandre Pato, and Ruben Loftus-Cheek an extended run of playing time. Against Aston Villa, this new look Chelsea dominated in a 4-0 victory, but they were pretty much playing a second division team so let’s take that with a grain of salt. Last week, however, the Blues slumped to a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Swansea City. In that demoralizing loss, a poor clearance from Miazga actually played a part in the Swans’ lone goal and the young American was subbed off at halftime. I doubt that Hiddink fields another experimental lineup against City, but with John Terry, Eden Hazard and Loic Remy still injured a few young names might still find themselves in the starting lineup.

The last time that these two sides met, it was in the fifth round of the FA Cup. That day, Chelsea absolutely thrashed City 5-1 at the Bridge. Before we take too much away from that result, it’s important to note that City’s starting lineup featured five debutants, with another two on the bench. Chelsea, on the other hand, pretty much sent out their strongest lineup possible. This gulf in class was evident throughout the match as Hiddink’s squad easily took care of business to advance. The tables have slightly turned this time around, and it will be interesting to see if City can take advantage of some of the inexperience present in Chelsea’s lineup. The Blues will be boosted by the return of Gary Cahill in center defense, and they will need his strength to cope with a deadly City attack.

This weekend, I will be a temporary Chelsea fan. I never thought I’d have to write that. The London club could strip City of three invaluable points and give my beloved United a small glimmer of hope that we could reach Europe. Look for Hiddink to play a defensive, counter-attacking style of play and walk away with a slim 1-0 result.

 

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About the author: Collin Carpio

 

I am currently a senior at the University of Missouri in the Journalism School. I have been an avid follower of Manchester United since 2006 and of course I support the Stars and Stripes. Due to my St. Louis high school allegiances, I am a big supporter of Brad Davis and Sporting KC in MLS.

 

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