Preview: Chelsea vs Manchester City showdown

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Chelsea striker Diego Costa has been ruled out of Saturday’s top-of-the-table contest with Manchester City after receiving a three-match ban by The Football Association, while creator-in-chief Cesc Fabregas is in doubt.

Costa was charged with violent conduct for an apparent stamp on Emre Can during Chelsea’s Capital One Cup semi-final win over Liverpool on Tuesday, a charge wihich the Spain forward denied, and on Friday The FA announced that the case against him was found proven.

The 26-year-old will also miss the forthcoming BPL matches against Aston Villa and Everton.

Blues midfielder Fabregas is also a doubt for the Man City fixture after limping out of the Liverpool match with a hamstring injury.

Chelsea sit five points above City at the Barclays Premier League summit, with the champions having drawn at Everton and lost to Arsenal after pulling level with Jose Mourinho’s side with a strong run of festive results.

The late kick-off at Stamford Bridge provides City’s first chance to respond to last weekend’s FA Cup elimination at the hands of Championship side Middlesbrough, with Chelsea also rebuilding confidence after a stunning 4-2 defeat by Bradford City.

Manuel Pellegrini has his own star striker, Sergio Aguero, fit and firing after a knee injury, although Frank Lampard’s return to Stamford Bridge is another talking-point. Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer joined City in in the summer and scored City’s equaliser in September’s 1-1 draw between the sides at the Etihad Stadium.

Lampard was regardless handed a warm reception by Chelsea’s fans that day, with another generous welcome expected on his return to west London – which could come from the start in City’s midfield.

Any hopes Pellegrini may have held of having Yaya Toure back in his midfield were dashed on Wednesday by Ivory Coast’s progression in the Africa Cup of Nations, but the City manager is philosophical about the midfielder’s absence.

“It is up to other players to demonstrate what they can do,” he said on Friday. “Yaya is a very important player for us but I was not decided if he was eliminated from the African Cup to come and play here two days after because I do not think it is the correct way to do it.

“We played without Yaya in Rome and qualified and against Bayern Munich in the Champions League. So he is a very important player. The same for Diego Costa but I don’t think they decide that both teams depend on just those players.”

However, Samir Nasri could return to the bench following a calf injury while City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala also faces a fitness test after picking up a shoulder problem. Winger Scot Sinclair, meanwhile, is no longer at the club after completing a loan move to Aston Villa on Friday.

Mourinho, meanwhile, also has concerns in his defence with Filipe Luis (calf) and match-winner Branislav Ivanovic (foot) sustaining injuries in midweek.

Chelsea (from): Blackman, Cech, Courtois, Ake, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Christensen, Filipe, Ivanovic, Terry, Zouma, Fabregas, Hazard, Matic, Mikel, Oscar, Ramires, Salah, Willian, Drogba, Remy, Schurrle, Solanke.

Manchester City (from): Caballero, Hart, Wright, Boyata, Clichy, Demichelis, Kolarov, Kompany, Mangala, Sagna, Zabaleta, Fernandinho, Fernando, Lampard, Milner, Navas, Nasri, Silva, Aguero, Dzeko, Jovetic.

source: premierleague.com

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