In pictures: Chelsea v Man City
Amid the tumult of a Stamford Bridge classic on Sunday in Chelsea’s 4-4 thriller with Manchester City, the Blues’ England outcasts presented a compelling joint case as to why they may yet be a part of Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2024 squad next summer. Raheem Sterling and Reece James will be on the outside looking in as the national squad meets up this week for the qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
Their cases are different: Sterling wants a place but cannot get it, James was offered one but turned it down. Ultimately though, both are desperate to be in Germany.
What better proving ground than a date with the treble winners to show Southgate the nudge that out of sight should not mean out of mind.
Individually, they were tasked with two of the most exacting assignments in the Premier League with Sterling attempting to escape the shackles of Kyle Walker and James charged with containing City’s in-form jack-in-a-box Jeremy Doku.
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But in a pulsating game which demonstrated everything that is good about the Premier League, both were shining lights.
James is still inching his way back from a serious hamstring injury – which is why he took the risk of asking Southgate to overlook him – but in the 64 minutes he managed yesterday he was class personified.
A dip of the hips and dart from Doku is one of the most dangerous moves in the league and it has embarrassed a succession of defenders since the Belgian winger’s arrival at City. But James did such a good job on him that Doku was withdrawn just before the hour having just been booked for diving in his desperation.
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James was also a menace going forwards and it was his overlapping run and cross which presented Sterling with the first half goal that briefly gave Chelsea the lead. Sterling was perfectly positioned to finish the chance.
Sharp in his movement and tricky on the ball, Sterling looks back to the player who was a mainstay of Southgate’s side for so long.
He had City’s defence on red alert all afternoon, and the only blot on his copybook was the scything foul on Phil Foden which offered Kyle Walker the chance of an injury time winner. However, Walker put the free-kick over the bar to leave honours even.
It was justice served for Chelsea. They are improving and Sterling and James are two of the primary driving forces as to why.
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