For all the talk of Manchester City's relentless offence, their hopes for a third consecutive Premier League title as well as any silverware they may add to their collection this season could hinge on the guy who prevents goals rather than scores them.
Ederson could make his return between the sticks for the Cityzens in a top-four crunch encounter with Chelsea at the Etihad on Saturday.
The Brasil international has been sidelined since suffering a muscular injury in the first half of City's 1-1 draw versus Atlanta in Champions League play on Nov. 6. It kept him out of their 3-1 loss to Liverpool before the international break four days later, a defeat that dropped Manchester City (8-1-3) nine points behind the table-topping Merseysiders and into fourth place behind both Leicester City and Saturday's opponents Chelsea (8-2-2).
Ederson returned to practice this week, though manager Pep Guardiola has yet to confirm if he will reclaim his spot from deputy Claudio Bravo. Ederson is not the only City player tipped to make a return, as midfielder and playmaker David Silva and holding midfielder Rodri are also potential inclusions into the first XI.
Another part of the defence still in flux is in the spine, where Fernandinho has been deployed as Aymeric Laporte continues to recover from a knee injury. The 35-year-old had been City's linchpin in midfield but is making the adjustments to form a partnership with John Stones.
"I feel good," Fernandinho said of his new position to the Manchester Evening News. "Of course, I have the help of my teammates and manager. It's been great for me, trying to do my best as always since I signed for City.
"Sometimes you feel you have to improve a little bit - but that's beauty of football. You can. Every morning, you can make it happen."
City forward Sergio Aguero looks to continue his stellar strike record versus Chelsea. The Argentina international has 13 goals in 17 matchups versus the Pensioners in all competitions, which includes his time with Atletico Madrid, and had a hat trick in the most recent league meeting when City smashed six past Chelsea without reply at the Etihad in February.
"In terms of an out-and-out goalscorer, Aguero is the best I played with," Chelsea boss and one-time City midfielder Frank Lampard told SkySports in 2017. "He can be quiet for much of the game and then he'll score the winning goal. He's lethal around the box."
Lampard, though, has a few goal-scorers who could eventually realise a level similar to Aguero at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have won six on the spin in league play, and their 27 goals trail only fellow top-four sides City (35), Liverpool (29), and Leicester City (28).
Tammy Abraham has shown his scoring prowess at the Championship level can transfer to the top flight, pacing the Pensioners with 10 goals in league play - putting him joint-first with Jamie Vardy for the Premier League lead -- and 11 overall. U.S. international Christian Pulisic also went into the break in fine form with all five of his league goals coming in the last three wins.
Pulisic, though, is a question mark for this game with a hip injury that also prevented him from crossing the Atlantic to play for the U.S. during the international break.
Despite the impressive string of results, Lampard has yet to record a signature Premier League victory. Chelsea have lost their two matches against fellow Big Six sides Liverpool and Manchester United, while one of their two draws came against surprise package Leicester City.
The sides split their league matches last term, with Chelsea recording a 2-0 victory before City hammered them in the return encounter. Guardiola's side won the rubber match on penalties after a scoreless 120 minutes in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley.]
Raheem Sterling converted the winning penalty in the fifth round after a bizarre incident towards the end of extra time in which keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga defied then-manager Maurizio Sarri's bid to sub out the keeper as he was dealing with cramps. Arrizabalaga did make one save during the shootout, but it was not enough to prevent City from completing the first leg of an unprecedented domestic treble.
Chelsea have just two wins in their last 11 visits to the blue side of Manchester (2-1-8) after going 10-1-1 in the first 12 of the Premier League era.