After a nervy yet imposing win, Chelsea managed to snatch 3 points this last weekend against Aston Villa. They managed to increase the gap to 5 points for a while after United were able to thwart Sheffield United comfortablely 3-0 yesterday evening. This closed the gap to 2 putting the pressure on Chelsea early once again. Chelsea will host Manchester City on Thursday night at the Bridge. Lampard will have to put out his best side if he wants to get a result against the reigning champions. Chelsea could have the opportunity to hand Liverpool the title if Chelsea manage to draw or win. Pep’s all-star level team is filled with talent left and right and will be a strenuous effort to contain any City player. Manchester City’s best player is without doubt Kevin De bruyne and his capabilities on the football pitch make him one of the best midfielders in Europe. Chelsea won’t only have to deal with De Bruyne, if he plays, they will also have to deal with the whole Manchester City squad. There is another particular player to note out though that could cause Chelsea several problems this thursday and that is the Algerian International, Riyad Mahrez.

Mahrez’s offensive prowess

The 29 year old has had a fruitful and impressive season after starting off slow under Pep Guardiola 2 years ago. After Leroy Sane’s unfortunate injury took him out of the frontline picture, Mahrez was able to capitalize on the opportunity of playing in his favored right wing position. The Algerian footballer is an inverted winger who likes to cut inside with his strong left foot and create havoc against the backline. Mahrez currently has 12 goals, 12 assists in 41 appearances in all competitions. The former African player of the year has had a revitalizing season and has been fairly consistent throughout his matches. He holds a remarkable +1.86 plus/minus Net per 90 minutes. This means whenever he was on the field, the team’s net per 90 minutes. He also possesses an outstanding 89.4% pass success rate and 60 % dribble success rate making him very efficient on the ball. He has been one of City’s top players this season being a consistent threat down that right hand side.

How City like to use Mahrez

City tends to dominate in possession and will try create quick interchanging passes between their players. Riyad thrives on the right side when he is able to take his man off the dribble or catch his defender sleeping in the offensive third. City’s RCM (usually Kevin de Bruyne or Bernardo Silva) likes to overload the right wing creating triangles between players or confuses the opposition by overlapping the right winger. We saw this against Burnley when City used Mahrez down the right wing channel. Riyad throughout the match stayed very wide, hugging the touchline at times. Usually Mahrez would receive the ball from the fullback and the RCM would go behind the left back defending Mahrez to create runs behind the defenders. This could spell danger for the blues as Chelsea’s current left backs aren’t known for their defensive qualities. Both Emerson and Alonso have struggled defensively and we could see City target this area in particular. What makes Mahrez so dangerous is not just his ability to read the game on and off the ball but his strong decision making to pick out when to take his man 1v1 or when dirft inside in 1-2 situations with his teammates. Bernardo Silva who was deployed RCM against Burnley, helped Mahrez get a ton of space by slotting in front of Charlie Taylor, Burnley’s left-back drawing him in narrowly and giving the Algerian international space to work with down the right wing.

Chelsea will have a difficult task ahead of their clash against Man City if they wish to get a result against the offensive juggernauts that is Manchester City. They destroyed Burnley 5-0 this past Monday and beat Arsenal 3-0 in comfortable fashion last Wednesday. Mahrez was able to score twice against Burnley, one from a penalty and another from a 1v1 that was created by a beautiful long ball distributed by Fernandinho. Mahrez was able to spun his defender, Taylor, inside out after cutting to his left and then his right to score a wonderful goal past Nick Pope. If Chelsea want to neutralize Mahrez’s impact on the pitch, they will most likely have to cover City’s midfielder runs by making sure their LCM is there to help the Left-back. Lampard could deploy Kovacic as that LCM to support Alonso or whoever is playing LB that match ( Azpilicueta or Emerson) to prevent any 1v1s from occurring. Once Mahrez gets that opportunity to run at a defender it will be laborious task to stop Mahrez in his tracks. Chelsea will also have to be on their toes for the long balls to Mahrez, specifically from City’s Centre backs, Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte as they could catch Chelsea defenders napping.

It is grueling task for any defender to man mark Mahrez as he can finish with either foot, dribble past defenders, and make key passes behind the backline. His dynamism and offensive expertise will more than surly be a tough test for Chelsea’s line of defense and we can only hope Chelsea are up to the task.

Sources:

whoscored.com, onefootball app statistics, transfermarkt, premier league app.

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