Man City vs ChelseaNick Miller asks and answers five key questions ahead of Saturday’s Premier League clash between Chelsea and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

1. Can Chelsea cope without Diego Costa, and possibly Cesc Fabregas?

The good thing about having the perfect striker for your system of play is that when he’s there, things run in perfect, smooth harmony, players neatly complementing each other and slotting together like it was meant to be. The bad thing is, when he’s not there then things are thrown off kilter more than usual, and the replacement just isn’t the same. And, of course, this is a particular problem in a game as big as this.

Jose Mourinho may enjoy Diego Costa’s rather, shall we say, “enthusiastic” attitude for his chosen style of play, as Miguel Delaney wrote this week. But if there was one game that he would perhaps have liked the Spain international to rein it in a bit ahead of, it’s this one. Of course, Chelsea maintain that Costa didn’t deliberately stamp on assorted Liverpool players on Tuesday night, but the FA disagreed, and he will therefore be absent for Manchester City’s visit, presenting Mourinho with a problem or two.

One of the things that has perhaps prevented Chelsea from completely running away with the league in a frankly mediocre division has been the quality of their back-up players. Mourinho hasn’t rotated his team nearly as much as he did in his first spell at Stamford Bridge, meaning he often hasn’t had to dip into his reserves (or, perhaps, hasn’t wanted to), but when one looks past the regular starters the odd problem starts to emerge.

In replacing Costa, Mourinho is left with a choice between Didier Drogba and Loic Remy, a duo he has trusted for a grand total of three starts between them this season. The obvious choice would be Drogba, but can he be relied upon for a whole game against the defending champions? Perhaps that is too harsh, given that Drogba started, finished and scored in the game at Manchester United earlier in the season, but it will remain a concern that Chelsea are relying on a striker who will be 37 in a couple of months.

Equally, Cesc Fabregas could be missing as well, after being withdrawn from the Capital One Cup semifinal after just 50 minutes. “Fabregas reported a tight hamstring,” Mourinho said about his midfielder. “Fabregas said he wasn’t yet injured but that he would be soon if he continued.”

Of course, hamstrings are notoriously difficult injuries to predict, and we would perhaps have had more of an update on his condition had Mourinho not cancelled his pre-match news conference. All we know is that Fabregas must be at least a concern, so one wonders how Chelsea will cope without their two most important attacking performers of the season so far.

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