Man City may have to make Chelsea selection decision that could backfire – Joe Bray

City players have been discussing the need to put a run of victories together to catch Arsenal in the league, so back-to-back wins at the start of 2023 would be extremely useful in that regard, even if a double-header with Chelsea will be extremely tricky.

However, City lost more ground on Arsenal after their draw with Everton, and need at least three results to swing in their favour to catch the Premier League leaders. Even with two games against Arsenal to come, having the title race out of their hands is a fairly alien position to be in.

So knowing the priority will be to catch Arsenal, City have to go all out in the league game at Stamford Bridge to strengthen their position in second, especially after the Gunners played third-placed Newcastle on Tuesday. That means playing the likes of Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and the strongest defence available.

Often in these situations, Guardiola will balance his squad and potentially rotate during a game if another tricky test is approaching, however, the league situation may mean he has to forgo that approach in West London this week, even if his options in the cup on Sunday are hampered.

Even a &aposweakened&apos team for City could still see an in-form Rico Lewis, a midfield including Ilkay Gundogan and Kalvin Phillips, and possibly a World Cup winner upfront. That&aposs hardly throwing away the cup tie, while there are also plenty of options in defence with plenty of fit options to pick from.

City beat Chelsea in the Carabao Cup in November with a so-called &aposweaker&apos side at the Etihad, and ended up progressing comfortably, so prioritising the Premier League is something they have done before and will do again.

Of course, the approach would carry some risk, and Chelsea know their best chance of silverware this season is the FA Cup. If they go stronger than they did in the Carabao Cup, they could exact revenge and knock City out at the third round stage for the first time since 2012. As City look to build momentum, any defeat could have knock-on effects in the title race.

However, while it would end any hopes of a quadruple and continue City&aposs up-and-down results of late, it could also free up some useful time off in the coming weeks and months when the fixture schedule will really take hold. Guardiola would rightly never accept losing in any competition, although he would also be able to use that disappointment to his advantage.

Whatever happens in the cup this week, City know that three points in the Premier League is the first objective. Only after full time at Stamford Bridge should any consideration be given to the cup.

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