Manchester United and Chelsea are set to lock horns with each other on Sunday, as the race for the top four spots in the Premier League goes down to the wire.
Two of the top four hopefuls will face off against each other this weekend, when a struggling Manchester United side play hosts to Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea outfit at Old Trafford.
Manchester United find themselves in dire straits. After the promising start to life under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Red Devils’ campaign has completely derailed. The 2-0 defeat to local rivals Manchester City in the derby earlier this week meant that United have now lost a whopping seven of their last nine matches in all competitions.
This kind of form has made them the outsiders in the race for a top four finish. Heading into Sunday’s clash, Manchester United are three points behind their opponents, who sit fourth on the table. If the Red Devils are to stand any chance of ending the season in the top four, they will have to win all their remaining three fixtures.
Chelsea, on the other hand, have a great chance of strengthening their grip on the fourth spot on Sunday. With Tottenham losing to West Ham United on Saturday and Arsenal facing a difficult away assignment at Leicester City, three points at Old Trafford would put Sarri’s side in a very good position to qualify for the Champions League.
Chelsea, however, have also hit a bit of a dodgy patch of form recently. The Blues have won just one of their last three matches in all competitions (D1 L1) – a 4-3 win over Slavia Praha in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals. Their most recent game ended in a 2-2 draw against Burnley earlier this week.
The two teams have already met each other twice this season once in the FA Cup and the Premier League each, but Chelsea have been unable to beat Manchester United. The league game ended in 2-2 draw, courtesy of a late Ross Barkley goal, while the Red Devils bested them 2-0 in the cup tie. Ahead of a crunch clash for both teams, we take a closer look at the squads.
Team News & Tactics
The biggest news coming out of the Manchester United camp at the moment is that midfielder Ander Herrera is back to full fitness and could be involved on Sunday, which will be a huge boost for the team. Scott McTominay and Eric Bailly are back in the mix as well, having recovered from their respective injury problems.
Having fielded a three-man backline against City in the midweek, Solskjaer is likely to switch to a traditional four-man defence in front of goalkeeper David de Gea, who has drawn a lot of criticism for his recent error-prone displays. Ashley Young and Luke Shaw should continue to operate as the full-backs with Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof forming the centre-back pairing.
Nemanja Matic was axed for the City clash, but could be in line to return as the defensive midfielder for Manchester United. The fit-again McTominay is also expected to feature in the middle of the park, while the third midfield slot is set to be occupied by Paul Pogba, with Herrera most likely getting some minutes from the bench.
Jesse Lingard had a forgettable outing against Manchester City, but his pace and energy should earn him another opportunity in a withdrawn role through the middle, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial operating in front of Lingard, in a setup similar to what Solskjaer used in the FA Cup victory against the Blues.
Probable Lineup (4-3-1-2): de Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; McTominay, Matic, Pogba; Lingard; Martial, Rashford
Midfield mainstay N’Golo Kante is a major doubt for the fixture after picking up a rib injury against Burnley, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has been ruled out for the season. But, Chelsea have Antonio Rudiger back available after the German missed the clash against the Clarets. Marcos Alonso missed the last two matches with an injury, but could be closing in on a return.
No major tweaks are expected in the lineup by Sarri, with Kepa Arrizabalaga continuing between the sticks. The fit-again Rudiger replacing Andreas Christensen is likely to be the only change in the backline, with Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Emerson Palmieri all set to be retained in the side.
With Kante’s involvement a doubt, either of Ross Barkley or Mateo Kovacic could be in line for a start on Sunday, while Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are expected to continue occupying the other two slots in the middle of the park for Chelsea.
Hudson-Odoi’s injury means Willian should come into the lineup in attack, while Sarri could once again deploy star man Eden Hazard in a false nine role, in order to stretch the Manchester United defence with the Belgian’s pace and movement. The other slot in the attacking trident should fall to Pedro, with Olivier Giroud and Gonzalo Higuain providing options from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Emerson; Barkley, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek; Pedro, Hazard, Willian
1. Manchester United Draw No Bet @ 1.83
2. Over 10.5 Corners @ 2.00
3. Manchester United to Win either half @ 1.80
1. Under 1.5 Match Goals @ 3.75
- Manchester United have won their last two Premier League home games against Chelsea – they hsve not beaten the Blues in three top-flight games in a row at Old Trafford since January 1957 under Sir Matt Busby.
- Chelsea have won more Premier League games against Manchester United than any other side have in the competition (18).
- Manchester United have won three of their last six meetings with Chelsea in all competitions (D1 L2), having failed to win any of the previous 12 against them (D5 L7).
- Chelsea have lost their last six Premier League away games against fellow ‘Big Six’ sides, including all four this season by an aggregate score of 1-13. Indeed, they are winless in eight such games (D2 L6) since beating Tottenham 2-1 at Wembley in August 2017.
- Manchester United forward Anthony Martial scored twice in the reverse fixture against Chelsea this season. The only United players to score home and away Premier League goals against the Blues in the same season are Wayne Rooney in 2011-12 and Eric Cantona in 1992-93.
Player to Watch
David de Gea
It’s a tough time to be David de Gea. For years, the Spaniard has been the epitome of brilliance and excellence at Manchester United, but the ongoing campaign has been a terrible one for the custodian. De Gea, this season, has conceded 50 goals already, while managing just 7 clean sheets in the Premier League and has made high-profile errors one after the other.
Mistakes in games against Barcelona, Everton and most recently Manchester City, have cost his team dearly. Clearly de Gea’s confidence has taken a huge beating, while the uncertainty around his contract situation will only have added more pressure.
However, the Spanish international has the total backing of the manager, who insisted ahead of the game that he will not be dropping de Gea for second-choice keeper Sergio Romero against Chelsea. In a period when United’s No. 1 is going through a crisis of confidence, a strong performance against the Blues could prove to be the turning point for him and his team.
Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
Manchester United are in a very bad place at the moment. Having picked up just one win in their last six league matches, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men need all three points on Sunday or they will be pretty much kissing their hopes of a top-four finish goodbye.
Chelsea too have also been well below their best recently and have failed to pick up a victory in their last two league outings. Add to it, the fact that the Blues have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches on the road without even scoring in any of them makes it all the more challenging to get a positive result from Old Trafford.
It will be a tightly-contested affair on Sunday with both teams in need of a victory. But, should Manchester United find a way to keep Eden Hazard quiet, which they have done in the last couple of matches, they will be in with a great chance to end their recent rut. We at The Hard Tackle are predicting a narrow win for the home team.