Manchester United and their contingent of fans will make the trip to the capital to take on reigning Premier League champions Chelsea in what promises to be a mouth-watering encounter
The last time these two sides met in the league at Chelsea’s home ground, Jose Mourinho had a few choice words to say to Antonio Conte at the end of the game. Ever since, the two have not looked eye-to-eye and it will be expected to continue this weekend, both on and off the pitch.
Manchester United have had a poor record at Stamford Bridge recently. They have conceded more goals and lost more games here than at any other ground in the country. Although it does not mean they will necessarily ‘go for it’ this time around, because anything but a win will hurt the hosts that little bit more. And with Manchester City taking on Arsenal before this game kicks off, United might know exactly how to proceed on the day depending on the result at the Etihad.
Chelsea have had a mixed bag of results – from a defensively solid 1-0 win over Bournemouth last weekend to a horrific display against Roma three days later. Although they are on the up in terms of results in the league, something just doesn’t seem right. Maybe it is their much talked about squad depth, or the lack of it, or the fact that they have a host of new fixtures thanks to the Champions League this season. A loss this weekend may see the undercurrent of discontent that has been brewing at the club, show its face.
Team news and tactics
Antonio Conte may finally have N’Golo Kante available after almost a month out. The Frenchman, to the surprise of many, did not feature in the loss against AS Roma, even after being confirmed by Conte to be fit enough. Victor Moses is the only definite absentee, missing out due to a hamstring injury.
The Blues will line up in their now usual 3-4-3 formation with Kante expected to partner-up with Danny Drinkwater in front of the 3-man defence. They have desperately missed the diminutive Frenchman, with his world-class tackling and distribution of the ball in the middle of the park. Compatriot Tiemoue Bakayoko is a doubtful starter, hence Drinkwater may make his first league start for the Blues.
The defence came under much fire after the midweek loss, and it may mean a brutal cleanup might be in order. An aging Gary Cahill was found wanting, Antonio Rudiger and David Luiz simply weren’t good enough midweek. A shift to a more conventional right-back role beckons for Cesar Azpilicueta in this game, alongside Andreas Christensen at left-back, with Luiz just about managing to keep his place in the center.
Attacking wise, Eden Hazard seems to have found his mojo again and Pedro has been putting his best shifts in a Chelsea shirt for a while. But the form of Alvaro Morata will be a concern for Conte. The Spain forward hasn’t looked the same ever since his return from injury two weeks ago.
Probable lineup (3-4-3): Courtois (GK), Christensen, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Alonso, Drinkwater, Kante, Zappacosta; Hazard, Pedro, Morata
Boss Jose Mourinho could not confirm the availability of his injured stars over the weekend, but hinted that Jesse Lingard will definitely miss out with a back injury. Marcos Rojo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba all remain unavailable.
A lot of the pre-game talk has been about how the visitors will set up for this game. And we think it will be a defensive-minded 3-4-1-2 that they will go with. Mourinho is known to be pragmatic when it comes to big matches, a mindset his former employers would be well familiar with. He set up defensively against Liverpool, and came in for much criticism; but all of us know it will not deter the Portuguese from his style of play.
The attack, though, features some of the marquee names of world football. With former Chelsea players Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata all set to be a part of said attack, joined by Marcus Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it will be making the already shaky Blues defence even more nervous. A quick, counter-attacking style of play, to break a lethargic Chelsea defence, might just be the order of the day.
Former Red Devil Phil Neville commented earlier in midweek that letting Nemanja Matic go was one of the worst decisions Chelsea have made recently, and in hindsight, it looks to be true. The Serb has been in good form ever since he joined United, but with the Blues’ recent defensive worries after Kante’s injury might just have added more weight to the statement.
Probable lineup (3-4-1-2): De Gea (GK), Jones, Smalling, Bailly; Young, Matic, Herrera, Valencia; Mkhitaryan; Lukaku, Rashford
Player to watch out for
Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United)
Although Chelsea fans might not admit it, the Belgian surely would have been their first choice striker to sign this summer over Alvaro Morata. He is a prime physical specimen who is capable of ripping any defence into shreds. His tally of 156 goals so far is better than that of Ronaldo at the same stage of his career, which just goes to show how much of an asset he really is.
On his former stomping ground, he may have a point or two to prove. And his seemingly telepathic partnership with Rashford upfront might become one for the ages.
- Manchester United’s last league win at Stamford Bridge came in a 3-2 result in 2012 (L9 D5)
- Romelu Lukaku has scored 15 goals in 59 appearances against the ‘big six’ in the Premier League
- Chelsea have already lost as many home games this season (2) as they lost the whole of 2016-17 season
- Manchester United have managed to keep a clean sheet in all but one of their last 7 games in all competitions
1. Full Time Result – Draw or Manchester United @ 1.55
2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @2.30
3. Under 5.5 Cards @1.83
1. Manchester United to win @3.20
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United
One thing that does come with Jose Mourinho is his knowledge of getting things done. Whether it be being pragmatic when required or ruthless otherwise, the trophy-laden cabinet of the Portuguese is proof enough that his methods work.
Chelsea, though, need a result after their midweek humiliation. They would take a point from this game and look to build on this result after the international break next weekend.