Chelsea news as the Blues welcome league leaders Manchester City to Stamford Bridge with some big calls to make

It is worth a preface that the chances of Raheem Sterling being dropped for Chelsea as they take on Manchester City on Sunday are slim and rightly so. Not only is the 28-year-old likely to be even more motivated to put out a strong performance as he faces his old side once again, he is deserving of his place in the squad.

Many will look towards him as an example of experience that this young squad greatly needs but the frustration continues to be taken out on him when things turn against Chelsea. During the 19-minute period that the Blues laboured and baffled in their attempts to overcome Tottenham’s high-line ploy on Monday it was Sterling that is seen as someone to take the reigns and show how it’s done.

In the end, it was him, linking with two of the other cooler heads on the field in Reece James and Cole Palmer, that forced the crucial second goal. As a silent leader, his work often goes underappreciated but that is largely borne from his association with the shocking transfer window last year and the season that followed.

As a player with over 100 league goals and years left to give there was an immediate sense that the club’s highest earner could reproduce his City levels of output in a club as far away from that level of competency and structure as it gets. Even now, as the second top scorer – only behind Nicolas Jackson, who’s return now looks impressive but had been underwhelming five days ago – Sterling is told he needs to do more rather than congratulated for what he has and is bringing.

This is what comes with his place as an esteemed member in the squad, rightly or wrongly, but it isn’t likely to change Mauricio Pochettino’s decision. However, there is certainly a case to say that he might be better off coming from the bench.

Pochettino is a publicly spiritual person and with that there is a good omen for choosing to go with Mykhailo Mudryk. On a weekend of drama – kickstarted by Tottenham’s late defeat to Wolves and then amplified with a red card at the Emirates Stadium for Arsenal along with Everton’s eventual victory at Crystal Palace – there was a common theme throughout.

The opening goalscorer of the 3pm games came at Selhurst Park and through an unlikely source, Ukrainian Vitaliy Mykolenko. Sean Dyche was buoyed by the goal and saw his team prevail 3-2 thanks to an 86th-minute Idrissa Gueye strike. Meanwhile, Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal were beating Burnley and recorded a 3-1 win there.

The Gunners had struggled before taking the lead but were quickly pegged back in the second half. William Saliba gave the home side the lead again and this time Ukraine defender Oleksandr Zinchenko got onto the scoresheet. His was perhaps the goal of the day as well, rifling in a scissor kick from inside the area.

That means that entering Chelsea’s game against City it currently stands that nearly half of the Ukrainian Premier League players have scored and won already this weekend. It would, then, be rude to deny Mudryk a chance to make that even more impressive. Brentford’s Yehor Yarmolyuk and Illia Zabarnyi are the only other currently registered players from the country in the top division.

Mudryk does also have some credit in the bank here, even if it wasn’t on show against Tottenham as his raw side was on full show. Before his injury in the first half against Fulham at the start of October Mudryk had been building up ahead of steam, starting to provide consistency and output that hadn’t been seen before.

He has now found that harder to recapture due to Cole Palmer’s form on the right and the trust in Sterling meaning that there really isn’t much space left for another attacker, especially not with the midfield trio looking so effective and Jackson earning a place himself with his late impact against Spurs.

Mudryk did show against Arsenal that not only is there a dangerous counter-attacker in there, something that will surely be crucial to cracking the Pep Guardiola code, but also that he is growing defensively. If he can be tasked with stopping Bukayo Saka it certainly makes the leap to Phil Foden a little easier.

There is an unsurprisingly big case for Sterling to just keep his place as well. During a week that he was once more left out of England’s squad under Gareth Southgate – the third time in a row this has happened – there is narrative enough to back Sterling to produce and prove a point.

He is a player, that despite his achievements, is often still ignored and undervalued for his roles for both club and country but tends to save his best for when people doubt him the most. It has been a common feeling this season that he is targeting Euro 2024 next year and the form on the field he is showing only supports that.

With this in mind and the City match-up on Sunday it would take a great change from Pochettino to actually make a bold call like this but it seems that fate has this down as the weekend of Ukraine and who wants to tempt fate?

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