In the biggest football matches, there are hundreds if not thousands of different points and details that can make all the difference. Manchester City vs Chelsea on Saturday will be no different.
Rodri and Mason Mount will arguably be the most important players on the pitch on Saturday, a face-off made even more intriguing given that the pair have not shared the same pitch in the last three meetings between City and Chelsea.
In May’s Champions League final (yes, we’ve got to mention it), Mount played an instrumental role as he dragged City this way and that. The England man lined up in a front three alongside Timo Werner and Kai Havertz, and it was his through ball that set Havertz up to score the only goal of the game.
It was a brilliant tactical ploy from Tuchel, but one that might not have proved so devastating to City had Rodri been on the pitch. Guardiola’s decision to set his side up without a natural holding midfielder was unexpected and it left Mount lots of space to confuse and disorientate City’s defence.
In September’s Premier League meeting at Stamford Bridge, City got their revenge largely thanks to the performance of the man Guardiola sidelined in Porto.
With Mount missing through injury Chelsea’s strikers – Werner and Romelu Lukaku – were left isolated. Rodri’s presence allowed City to dominate large swathes of that game, the Spain international’s positioning and passing ability allowing the Blues to keep the ball and starve the Chelsea duo of the service they needed. Guardiola’s side rode out 1-0 winners and deservedly so
Four months on, both Mount and Rodri will likely be in their team’s starting line-ups at the Etihad Stadium. It promises to be a fascinating battle.
Rodri has made more passes under pressure (238) than any other player in the Premier League this season, yet is the division’s third most accurate passer with a pass completion percentage of 93.1. His ability to draw pressure from opponents yet still operate at such a high level frees up space and passing lanes for teammates around him. Without him, City would struggle to play the way they do.
PEP ON HOW RODRI COMPARES TO HIS PAST CENTRE MIDFIELDERS
Mount is a one of Chelsea’s top creative forces, but he also performs the ‘Bernardo Silva role’ for Tuchel’s side. When Chelsea are out of possession he hurries and harries, nipping about the pitch and putting his opponents under pressure.
This season he has applied pressure 268 times, with Chelsea regaining possession on 80 of those occasions. Jorginho – effectively Rodri’s opposite number – is the only Chelsea player to better the England man in both measures.
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City will likely dominate the ball at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, so Mount’s ability to press will be key to their chances of success. How Rodri copes with that will be pivotal to City’s performance too.
Each was the most significant absentee in the previous two meetings between City and Chelsea, so it will be intriguing to finally see them share the field again.