Old Trafford, Manchester
Sunday, 26th October 2014; 1600 GMT
Chelsea and its fans will make the 209-mile journey north-west to take on a new-look Manchester United at Old Trafford, hoping to continue their unbeaten start to the season. A troubled start for the Red Devils has somewhat been rectified in the past few weeks, but it is nowhere close to what their fans have come to expect of the team.
Even at this early stage, it would not be difficult to imagine this Chelsea side going unbeaten through the season. They are, currently, the most in-form team in England and can (and probably will) settle for a point at Old Trafford. It will all come down to, one believes, the off-the-pitch battle between two master tacticians. The only difference being that the Chelsea boss has been there and done that in the Premier League while Louis van Gaal’s side face their biggest game yet this season. It will also come down to who wins the battle in the midfield. Both teams have star-studded players there and in particular at the head of the field. One would expect players like Angel Di Maria and Eden Hazard to run the show at Old Trafford, but they must not also forget the workman-like qualities and the “engines” of their particular midfields, Nemanja Matic and Daley Blind.
The media has been all over United’s terrible defending this season – and rightly so. The Reds have been panicky at the back switching from van Gaal’s 5-man defence to a more traditional four. While it is looking like they have sorted their form out – at least at home – there will still be questions asked if they do not manage to get a result against the big teams and especially against Jose Mourinho’s team. With a tough month ahead for them, United will look to get the momentum needed with a win, or atleast a good performance, against this Chelsea side.
Team news and tactics
The come-from-behind draw at The Hawthorns looked to have come at a price for United with Di Maria and Ander Herrera both going off injured. However, their manager has confirmed that both of them are fit and available for selection come game day. The only injury concerns for the Reds is in the form of Antonio Valencia and Jonny Evans, both of whom are out of contention. Club captain Wayne Rooney, however, is still suspended following his red card 3 weeks ago.
Manchester United will be expected to line up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Blind sitting in front of the back four, linking up his defence with the attack. Marouane Fellaini came off the bench against West Brom to score a goal and will be expected to start this time around. With the news that both Di Maria and Herrera are fit to start, the two men will be looking to feed the ball to the striker – either of Robin van Persie or Radamel Falcao. The Dutchman’s form is indifferent this season and it may very well happen that the Colombian starts this match in his place. Marcos Rojo could shift to the left given Luke Shaw’s slow start to the season, while Chris Smalling takes his place in the center of defence.
The system that United work with is a very fluid system. It can easily change from a 4-1-4-1 to a 4-3-2-1 when they are under the cosh. Given their attacking prowess and the relatively fragile defence, the Reds will look to assert their dominance early on in this game.
Possible lineup (4-1-4-1): De Gea (GK); Rojo, Smalling, Jones, Rafael; Blind; Herrera, Mata, Di Maria, Januzaj; Falcao
The Blues have big injury concerns on the striker front with both Loic Remy and Diego Costa both unavailable to start this match. The Frenchman is out for 2-3 weeks, however the Spaniard may just be fit enough to make the bench after recovering from a bug. Likewise, both Ramires and John Obi Mikel have a “little chance” of being available for this match. Cesar Azpilicueta is suspended for this game.
Chelsea will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Cesc Fabregas and Matic sitting in front of the back four. The only change in an otherwise settled defence will be the unavailability of Azpilicueta who will be duly replaced by a natural left-back, Felipe Luis. The question remains, however, of the attack that Mourinho will go with. If indeed Costa is not fit enough to start, we could see Andre Schurrle starting as a striker, or more of a “false number nine”. Eden Hazard and Willian are expected to take up the wings with Oscar expected to line up behind Schurrle.
In most away matches before, Mourinho has been wary of being too attacking by holding Fabregas back in the midfield. While he will still be expected to pull strings in the midfield, the fans will not expect him to be as high up the pitch as he was against Crystal Palace in the last game. Having said that, Chelsea do have enough attacking players to compensate for his deep-seated role.
Possible lineup (4-2-3-1): Courtois (GK); Luis, Cahill, Terry, Ivanovic; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Schurrle
Player to watch out for
Angel Di Maria (Manchester United)
The Argentinian has been given the medicall all-clear to start this game and he will be looking to influence proceedings. United’s most expensive signing is certainly looking like he is worth the money and matches like these are where he has to stand up and be counted.
- An average of 2.5 goals has been scored at Old Trafford in 10 of the last 11 of United’s matches.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in the last 6 matches against Manchester United
- United have scored atleast two goals in their last 5 matches in the Premier League
Manchester United 1 – 2 Chelsea
The imbalance in United’s attack and defence could cause a worry for them. Chelsea’s attack should also prove to be too much for the inexperienced back four. The Blues should be able to eke out a hard fought victory.
Blast from the past