By News Team
12th January 2022
Manchester City can take one step closer to successfully defending their Premier League title should they beat Chelsea on Saturday at the Etihad, but former Blues star Florent Malouda is backing Thomas Tuchel’s side to spring a surprise and take all three points.
The Blues head to Manchester knowing that a win gives them a glimmer of title hope, with the Citizens currently holding a 10-point advantage over the team from the capital. But Malouda is quietly confident that Chelsea can reduce the gap this weekend.
“I can see Chelsea winning against Manchester City,” said Malouda. “If they want to bridge the gap then then they need to beat the best, and there’s nothing to lose now in this game. It’s an opportunity to go out and beat City and keep the title challenge alive.
“If you look at (Thomas) Tuchel’s record against Pep (Guardiola), it shows he has the right formula, and he knows how to beat City. I think they can beat them this weekend. To be honest, I can see it being a crazy game, and I’m going to say Chelsea can win 4-3!”
While the Frenchman is big admirer of this current City team, he also claimed that he thinks his Chelsea side would have defeated Pep Guardiola’s men due to the physical and mental strengths his old team-mates possessed.
“Our Chelsea team would beat this City team, as we had different qualities,” Malouda stated. “If I compare this City team to Barcelona at its peak, we were the kind of team they didn’t like to play against, and of course I respect them, but I think we would have been able to do to them what we did to Barcelona at times.
“We would disturb them, be physical against them, and that would put doubt in their minds. I’ll admit that we parked the bus, and they didn’t like it! Maybe City would be the same against us.”
While Malouda is confident his teams under Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, and Carlo Ancelotti would be able to rough up Guardiola’s current team, the former Lyon midfielder admits he enjoys watching City play and that it looks like they’ll be difficult to stop in their quest for back-to-back titles.
He said: “Looking at all of City’s performances, it will be difficult to stop them, but everything is possible. They have a strong squad, and they could play three strong teams. I don’t see many weaknesses, and I think they will win the Premier League this season. I hope they drop points, but it doesn’t look likely. I’m not so optimistic of Chelsea winning the title this season.
“I wish Chelsea were leading the Premier League, but I think they are still doing well considering, and I hope they will be able to do well in the FA Cup, Carabao Cup, and the Champions League and defend that title. It would be great if they could do the double this season, and I have faith they can do it.”
Malouda has been impressed with Tuchel since the German’s arrival in England and explained that he would have relished playing under the former PSG and Borussia Dortmund boss.
“I was watching him closely when he trained PSG, and when he arrived at Chelsea he jumped right in and delivered,” said Malouda. “He made the right choices and had a strong impact psychologically on some players. The additions he made to the squad made a big difference too.
“I would have liked to play under him because he’s pragmatic and seems like a man of his word. It seems his communication is clear, and he’s now got great competition in the squad, and results have been good.
“Chelsea did have a drop in form but it’s difficult to be consistent because you don’t know which players you have available and in form, and I think Chelsea paid a heavy price at the wrong time for that. They haven’t had every player performing each week and when you have to rotate it’s tough.
“There were also instances when they were playing very well but weren’t killing the game and dropped points. That’s the difference with City as they go for the throat of teams every time. They don’t lose points and they are so efficient.”
Malouda reserved special praise for players such as Antonio Rudiger and Mason Mount, saying that those two individuals have been key to Chelsea’s success so far this season, while also noting that he’s glad to see Romelu Lukaku come back into the fold after his recent comments led to issues off the field.
He said: “It would be a big blow to lose (Antonio) Rudiger, but he’s opened the door to staying and that’s good because he’s been very good for Chelsea and not been affected by the situation on the pitch. We’ll see if he stays.
“I’m impressed by Mason Mount’s consistency this season. He’s still young and he’s playing lots of games at a high intensity and pressure, and he always delivers. He’s really good, and especially when you look at the quality of the squad and the physical intensity he needs to cope with.
“I am glad to see Romelu Lukaku back. He’s a die-hard Chelsea fan and I still think he will be there for many years to come. He is still young and has many things to do. He wants to reach his peak at Chelsea, and I would love to see him lead them to silverware and win the Champions League. Chelsea is a better team with him, and his record is incredible. He will enjoy the challenge.”
Malouda also spoke about his time at Chelsea where he racked up 149 appearances and scored 35 goals for the Stamford Bridge club. But it could have been different for Malouda, who admitted he was close to joining Liverpool before signing on the dotted line for the Blues.
He said: “It’s true Liverpool did try to sign me. My coach at Lyon tried to make me sign for Liverpool but my mind was made up early. I wanted to sign for Chelsea because at the time they were champions and to play under Jose Mourinho was an objective.
“I remember my first training session in Los Angeles with the club during pre-season. He (Mourinho) was so charismatic. He made you feel comfortable. I felt like he knew me, and I didn’t feel any fear or apprehension of how we would work. Work was work, and in your free time you were allowed to be yourself. For me it was great because you were trusted to be responsible. That’s what I liked with Jose.
“I was also close with players such as (Didier) Drogba, (Michael) Essien, (Salomon) Kalou, but all over the dressing room I saw most top international captains. It’s what I was looking for as that’s what I wanted to test myself against. The purpose for me was to sign for Chelsea where there was constant intensity and no comfort zone. Training was like a Ligue 1 game in France, so I learned a lot about myself.”
Asked to name his favourite memory of his time at the club, Malouda claims it’s an easy decision to pick ‘that night’ in Munich.
He said: “My favourite time was definitely the Champions League final in Munich. That was the goal and we achieved it. We were exhausted physically and mentally. After what happened before in the semi-final against Barcelona, the disappointment of the final in Moscow in 2008, this was the perfect scenario.
“When I left the club, I felt I did everything I could. Seven trophies in six years. If you told me that would be by resume when I joined in 2007, I would have definitely taken it. It was a great feeling and I’m so proud of those achievements.”