It’s worth keeping an eye on our Spanish contingent when we take on Manchester City, as Chelsea players from that country have a habit of making important contributions in matches between the two sides.
One of the best known and most dramatic of those occasions came in October 2013, when City came to Stamford Bridge with the home side knowing a win would move us up to second place in the table and within two points of first-placed Arsenal.
Fernando Torres had already made quite an impression on the match by leaving Gael Clichy for dead to set up Andre Schurrle’s first Chelsea goal and rattling the frame of the goal after getting the better of City debutant Martin Demichelis and beating goalkeeper Joe Hart with an angled effort.
However, it looked like those efforts would only be enough to earn a point as the game entered injury time locked at 1-1. But then, Willian’s long pass caused confusion in the Mancunian defence and when Matija Nastasic and Hart made a mess of things it was Torres who had refused to give up on the ball and capitalised to grab the winner in the last minute.
Three years later, it was another Spanish international striker who was proving too hot for City to handle – Diego Costa. This time we were the away side, and would have felt ourselves unlucky to go in at half-time a goal behind after a strong performance.
There had been plenty of hints at how we would find our way back into the game, though, as Costa’s strength, anticipation and street-smarts meant defenders Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones struggled to get to grips with him time and time again.
That provided the breakthrough we had needed, as our number 19 twisted and turned and bullied his way free of Otamendi to score an equaliser, which unlocked the gates and set us on our way to a 3-1 victory, our eighth consecutive win in the Premier League and a crucial one at that, opening up a three-point buffer between us and the rest at the top of the table.
It’s not just the strikers who have made significant contributions against Man City either. It might be hard to remember now, but when Cesar Azpilicueta first joined Chelsea his role in the side was uncertain, given the presence of established figures such as Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole in the full-back positions.
That meant his appearance against City in November was only his fourth Premier League start for the club since joining in the summer. What’s more, it came during a difficult time at the Bridge, as fellow Spaniard Rafa Benitez took charge of the team for the first time after replacing Roberto Di Matteo following a stuttering start to the campaign.
Add in the fact that Azpilicueta had only previously experienced football in sunny Spain and the south coast of France, and the prospect of coming up against arguably the Premier League’s most potent attack in a torrential downpour early in his first English winter must have been daunting.
Benitez’s faith in the right-back proved to be well founded, though, as he put in the kind of solid and reliable performance we are now accustomed to from him, to subdue another Spaniard David Silva and the overlapping threat of Aleksandar Kolarov to shut out City and steady the ship with a credible 0-0 draw in extremely testing circumstances, proving he was a worthy alternative to the old guard in our back line in the process.
With Azpilicueta in line to make his 300th Chelsea appearance when we face Manchester City this time around, not to mention a strong Spanish contingent including Kepa Arrizabalaga, Marcos Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Alvaro Morata alongside him in the Blues’ ranks, don’t be surprised to see a Spaniard making a key contribution against the Citizens again.