It’s the clash of the Premier League titans as Manchester United and Chelsea renew their fabled rivalry in a Super Sunday clash at Old Trafford
The weekend’s Premier League action will come to an end in enticing fashion when one of the most talked about rivalries is renewed on Sunday. Plus, there’s some more room for excitement thanks to the small matter of the Jose Mourinho-Antonio Conte rivalry as Manchester United and Chelsea face off at Old Trafford.
The hosts have stuttered after a strong start to 2018. Since the turn of the month, Manchester United have failed to win three of the five games that they’ve played, losing two out of three Premier League matches in this run. Jose Mourinho’s men are now looking over their shoulders, with fifth-placed Tottenham just four points behind.
Chelsea, too, aren’t going through their best phase of form this season. Like Manchester United, the Blues have lost two of their last three Premier League games, although there have been signs of a turnaround in form following big wins over Hull City and West Bromwich Albion as well as the draw against Barcelona in the Champions League.
The reverse fixture, played back in November, ended in a 1-0 win for Chelsea, with Alvaro Morata scoring the solitary goal of the game. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Jose Mourinho has a few injury concerns on his hands ahead of the visit of Chelsea. On Sunday’s crunch fixture, the Manchester United boss could be without as many as six first-team players due to various fitness problems.
The issues start right at the back with Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo doubtful due to their respective knocks, and their availability is touch-and-go. Eric Bailly, meanwhile, is raring for a first start since the reverse fixture after recovering from an ankle injury.
If the Ivorian is fit and available, Mourinho is likely to deploy a three-man back-line as has often been the case against sides with similar systems during his reign as the Manchester United manager. Bailly should then line up alongside Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof at the heart of the defence.
In midfield, Ander Herrera will not be able to repeat his man-of-the-match exploits from last season in the corresponding fixture, with Mourinho revealing that the Spaniard is sidelined due to a muscle injury. In his absence, the midfield is likely to feature Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba, who has impressed the manager with his professionalism.
Upfront, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku are near certain starters, with the third spot a toss up between Anthony Martial and Juan Mata. Mourinho is likely to give Martial the nod on Sunday, with the Frenchman looking to prove a point, meaning Mata will be an impact sub from the bench, if need be.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): De Gea; Bailly, Smalling, Lindelof; Valencia, Matic, Pogba, Shaw; Martial, Lukaku, Sanchez
Like Mourinho, Antonio Conte, too, has a few fitness problems on his hands ahead of the trip to Old Trafford. On Sunday though, the Chelsea boss isn’t really dealing with any pressing concerns, with ample cover for the three first-team players who are unavailable.
David Luiz is the sole absentee at the back, but with the likes of Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Gary Cahill and the ever-present Cesar Azpilicueta available, Conte isn’t really sweating over his options. Rudiger is likely to be the man missing out, with Gary Cahill the only change in defence.
Up ahead in midfield, Tiemoue Bakayoko is struggling with a calf injury while Ross Barkley still isn’t completely match fit, meaning the Chelsea boss has a choice to make between Cesc Fabregas and Danny Drinkwater as N’Golo Kante’s partner, with the former likely to get the nod to provide more creative impetus.
Upfront, Conte might facilitate a slight change in system from the Blues’ midweek draw against Barcelona, with Pedro not impressing much. Alvaro Morata should, thus, start, with Eden Hazard and Willian the wingers. The Spaniard will be hoping to recreate his heroics from the reverse fixture, and will be a big target man for the wing-backs.
Probable Starting Lineup (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian, Morata, Hazard
- Manchester United have won just one of their last 14 matches in all competitions against Chelsea (D5 L8) – winning this exact fixture last season in the Premier League (2-0).
- Only Liverpool (4) have done the league double over Manchester United more times in Premier League history than Chelsea (3 – level with Manchester City and Arsenal).
- Manchester United have lost more Premier League games (18) and conceded more Premier League goals (67) against Chelsea than they have against any other side in the competition.
- Jose Mourinho has seen his Manchester United side score more than once in just one of their seven home Premier League games against fellow ‘big six’ teams, although it came last season versus Chelsea (W3 D2 L2).
- Jose Mourinho has lost three matches in all competitions against Chelsea as the Manchester United manager, more than against any other opponent.
1. BTTS – YES @1.80
1. Full Time Result – Draw @ 3.25
Player To Watch
The spotlight may be on Paul Pogba, and whether he is included in the starting lineup by Mourinho. But, the key man for Manchester United will be Romelu Lukaku. Often scrutinised for his performances against the bigger sides, or the lack thereof, a lot will depend on his form in front of the Chelsea goal.
The Belgian striker has failed to score in any of his six Premier League matches against the so-called ‘big six’ opponents this season, with a paltry four shots to show for his efforts. He will need to have a much more improved tally for the hosts to get the better of Chelsea on Sunday, and will be eagerly waiting to break this duck against the Blues.
Manchester United 1-0 Chelsea
Jose Mourinho against a ‘big six’ side. It really goes just one way as far as his own team is concerned, with overly defensive tactics set to be employed in order to stifle the dynamic Chelsea attack. Chelsea, on the other hand, face two games that will change the course of the season with Manchester City up next.
Neither side can really afford to lose this one, but Mourinho usually comes better off on such occasions at home, with the two losses to Manchester City his only undoing so far at Old Trafford. Expect the match to be hotly contested, with the personal bitter rivalry between Mourinho and Conte reigniting as well. We predict a narrow 1-0 win for the hosts.