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Koulibaly replaced, Hakim Ziyech starts – three massive changes Graham Potter must make ahead of Manchester City

One win in seven Premier League matches. That is the form Chelsea take into Thursday evening’s clash against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge. It hardly inspires confidence but Graham Potter and his players must shake off the negativity and – at the very least – produce a strong performance.

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It may not be enough to overcome City and Erling Haaland, the Premier League’s outstanding goalscorer. But there needs to be a sign of life from Chelsea, an indication that progress can be made in the weeks ahead under Potter, despite the injuries that have afflicted key players in his time as head coach.

The last time out against Nottingham Forest was not a pleasant experience for those of a Chelsea persuasion. The Blues were bullied and knocked about by Steve Cooper’s side at the City Ground, especially in the second half, and the 1-1 scoreline did little to quieten the discontent.

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There have been too many insipid displays from Chelsea on either side of the World Cup. A shake-up is needed and, without Potter going nuclear and bringing in the likes of Lewis Hall, Carney Chukwuemeka, and Omari Hutchinson, there are changes he can make to his side against Man City.

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Chalobah for Koulibaly

Signed from Napoli in the summer to fill the Antonio Rudiger-shaped hole in the Chelsea defense Kalidou Koulibaly has not enjoyed the best of starts at Stamford Bridge. The 31-year-old has struggled to adapt to the quicker pace of Premier League football and has often been exposed whether deployed in a back three or a back four.

Against Nottingham Forest, Koulibaly has been used as the right ccenter-backin a pairing with Thiago Silva. It was a difficult evening for the Senegal international, whose disposition to step out of the backline to try to reclaim the ball was regularly exploited by the home side.

On the bench, as was the case against Bournemouth, was Trevoh Chalobah. The academy graduate endured a frustrating start to the campaign under Thomas Tuchel and was behind summer signing Wesley Fofana in the pecking order. However, after the Frenchman suffered a knee injury against AC Milan, Chalobah stepped into the side and produced several impressive displays.

That the 23-year-old hasn’t started either of the two games after the World Cup is curious. Yet that must change for the visit of Manchester City on Thursday evening. Chalobah’s speed and mobility could well prove vital in trying to shackle the threat of Haaland, who has struck 21 goals this term.

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Kovacic for Mount

It’s gone somewhat under the radar that Mateo Kovacic has started just five Premier League matches for Chelsea this season. The reason why is throughout the opening three-and-a-half months of the campaign, the Croatian was nursing a knee injury sustained before the start of the season.

However, during the World Cup, Kovacic played seven matches for Croatia and helped his country secure a third-place finish in Qatar. The midfielder proved his fitness and shouldn’t be wrapped in cotton wool now he is back at Stamford Bridge, especially given the form Potter’s side is in.

After playing the final 30 minutes against Forest, Kovacic should return to the Chelsea midfield against City to try to help shutdown Guardiola’s creative players. And his introduction would see Mason Mount drop out of the starting XI, a rarity given his durability and influence in past seasons.

Mount, who has just 18 months left on his contract, has struggled for form this term. The academy graduate’s quality is undeniable but the impact of being Chelsea’s go-to player for more than three seasons – and a consistent starter for England – appears to have taken its toll.

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Ziyech for Sterling

Before the World Cup, the suspicion was Hakim Ziyech would leave Chelsea in the January transfer window. The 29-year-old had struggled for minutes under both Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter and there was interest in a loan deal from Serie A champions AC Milan.

How quickly things can change. Ziyech’s performances for Morocco, who finished fourth at the tournament in Qatar, were outstanding and very much increased the prospect of the winger being afforded greater first-team opportunities on his return to Chelsea, which was delayed until last week.

Ziyech was among the substitutes against Nottingham Forest but was introduced with 18 minutes to play. In his time on the pitch, Ziyech produced a trademark cross that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should have converted and brought a threat to the right flank that was previously lacking.

Naturally, Sterling would be disappointed to not start against City, the club he left in the summer. But he has struggled for form in a Chelsea shirt since Potter’s arrival and despite getting on the scoresheet at the City Ground, isn’t doing enough to be considered untouchable in the side.

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