Manchester City V Chelsea Preview: Will Carlos Tevez Be Back With A Vengeance?

The Huffington Post UK  |  By Posted: 21/03/2012 16:11 Updated: 21/03/2012 16:28

Andre Villas-Boas may have been many things to the unimpressed Chelsea squad, but he did oversee victory against Manchester City.

A 2-1 win in December, after City had led through Mario Balotelli, was the Portuguese's most impressive result during his brief stint in the Premier League.

City dominated the first half and were denied an obvious penalty on David Silva when 1-0 up. But the club's former graduate Daniel Sturridge teed up Raul Meireles for a 34th minute equaliser before Frank Lampard rammed home a penalty to end the visitors' unbeaten league run.

Games between the blues brothers have been splashed with an extra dash of spice in recent years. On that hectic August transfer deadline day in 2008 when City were bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, Chelsea's website enabled supporters to pre-order their personalised Robinho replicas, even though he was yet to be signed.

The Brazilian was in the departure lounge at Real Madrid, and his destination was expected to be west London. City, unlike most mundane lottery winners, knew exactly what they wanted with the sudden cash injection and crammed Robinho into a crate marked "Manchester".

Less than two years later, there was the John Terry-Wayne Bridge saga. In January 2010 a super-injunction was imposed by a High Court judge preventing the media from reporting allegations Terry had had a four-month affair in late 2009 with Vanessa Perroncel, Bridge's former girlfriend. The injunction was lifted a week later.

Both teams had changed managers by this time, with two Italians in the respective hot seats. Neither Carlo Ancelotti or Roberto Mancini shied away from starting Terry or Bridge when the two sides clashed a month later, which led to the latter snubbing his ex-team-mate during the pre-match handshake ritual. City won 4-2 to complete a league double against the eventual champions.

City defeat Chelsea 4-2 in 2010:

Two Italians are in charge again this evening. CIty have stuck with Mancini, but Roman Abramovich, who possesses such an itchy trigger finger he makes Massimo Moratti look like a hoplophobiac, ditched Ancelotti last May.

And Roberto Di Matteo faces his toughest test yet. Four wins in four games - two against lower league opposition - have given the interim coach a perfect start as he struggles to audition for the job on a full-time basis.

Against Napoli he was drowned out by Terry barking out instructions, and one newspaper this morning suggested the ex-England captain will be on the bench this evening even though he is out injured.

But all eyes will be on the home bench. An Argentinian few City fans cried for, Carlos Tevez was touted by his manager yesterday as a possible member of the 18-man squad.

The 28-year-old hasn't warmed a bench since he refused to warm up at the Allianz Arena in September, prompting him to abscond to Argentina for five months. Mancini said it was "impossible" for him to play for the club again whilst he remained in charge.

However he has pulled the handbrake on to make a drastic U-turn over Tevez. City's loss to Swansea on the day United leapfrogged them for the first time since October has hastened the number 32's return to the first-team fold, while Tevez has also scored six goals in six games against Chelsea.

Chelsea thrash City 6-0 in 2007:

So will "El Cashico" see Tevez deliver a moment to reignite City's season, or will Chelsea place a dagger to the heart of the Mancs' title bid? Here are the key clashes...

Vincent Kompany v Didier Drogba

Kompany was listed as a doubt for tonight's game, but he arrived at the Etihad Stadium this morning with the rest of the City squad, which would seem to indicate he will be available for selection. With Joleon Lescott ruled out, it is all-the-more-pivotal the Belgian plays since it eradicates the possibility of Stefan Savic facing Didier Drogba. Savic, 21, has been a major liability when he has played this campaign, and the Serb - who did not play at the corresponding fixture in December - would be food for thought for the Ivorian Drogba. Instead he is likely to face compatriot Kolo Toure and Kompany, and his duel with the latter proves to be a fascinating one. Each possesses silk and steel in abundance and there are few players in the Premier League better than either in their expert positions.

Michael Essien v David Silva

Chelsea's biggest weakness going into this match is that they are bereft of a holding midfielder. Spaniard Oriol Romeu remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, and he would have been the ideal squad member to shadow his fellow countryman Silva. The slick City playmaker has tired recently after a magnificent first half of the season, and has scored just once since Christmas (against Porto in the Europa League). Michael Essien used to be as intimidating to opponents in his pomp as Drogba remains to defenders, but it is debatable whether he can replicate the form he displayed before he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in pre-season. Essien's form was actually poor last season and, as he turns 30 in December and with Chelsea's old guard fading this year and last, he needs to deliver a performance to remind the doubters of his class.

Balotelli skips past Branislav Ivanovic to give City the lead in December

Gary Cahill v Mario Balotelli

Villas-Boas appeared unimpressed by Cahill. Happy to inform the media the ex-Bolton defender was holding out for more money and that he was signed by the club - not him - the England international has experienced a difficult start down south. And that's without overlooking him for selection initially.

Cahill hardly stood out in a Bolton ship that was struggling to stay afloat before his £7m January move and the 26-year-old hasn't blossomed yet in Chelsea blue. He starts tonight because Terry is injured, and with David Luiz's indisciplined marauding a motif of Chelsea's defensive porousness this campaign, there is a heavy burden on Cahill to shore up the rearguard. Balotelli, as he has shown, is brilliant but nomadic, and yet to be overawed by an opponent. At Swansea however, he became desperate when he executed a farcical dive as the heat was turned up and City cracked - in one supporter's case, literally. With pressure building, it will be intriguing to see how the temperamental Italian copes in such a huge game.