The first matchday of the 2019-20 Premier League sees Chelsea travel to Manchester to face rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Premier League football has returned with a bang, with last season’s pacesetters doing the same this season. Liverpool cruised to a 4-1 win over Norwich City in Friday night football while Manchester City trounced West Ham United 5-0 on Saturday. The onus is now on the other top teams to start strong.
But, we will not see all of the ‘Big Six’ teams start with a win at least, with Manchester United being pitted against Chelsea in the opening matchday of the 2019-20 Premier League. Manchester United have had an enviable pre-season but a transfer window that fell short of fans’ expectations. Two of the new signings, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James performed well in the pre-season, with youngsters also shining bright.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea project has not got off to the best of starts. Not in a position to bring in players that fit his system thanks to the transfer ban, the club legend has seen David Luiz and Eden Hazard leave without being replaced. Christian Pulisic is likely to be seen as the man to replace the Belgian.
But, David Luiz’s deadline-day departure could be telling. Positives for Lampard and the club is that the manager is keen to give youth a chance and has seen the talent of the likes of Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Tammy Abraham, with Mount and Tomori having worked under him at Derby County while Abraham played in the same league for now-promoted Aston Villa.
Youth is expected to be highlighted by the two clubs on the pitch on Sunday as Manchester United and Chelsea renew rivalries for the new season.
Team News & Tactics
The defence is almost fixed for the first game of the season. David de Gea will be the first-choice for United, despite having not agreed a new contract. The back four should have two new faces, with Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka likely to start. Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw should complete the backline.
In the midfield pivot, Scott McTominay has played his way into a starting role for the season opener, thanks to his pre-season form. Paul Pogba should ideally be his partner and despite early concerns over his fitness, the Frenchman should start alongside McTominay.
Romelu Lukaku has departed without any replacement being brought in. This likely means a start for Marcus Rashford in the 4-2-3-1 system. But, it is interesting to see where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will choose to deputise the academy graduate, with Anthony Martial also penciled in to start. Solskjaer has fielded both of them out on the wing and upfront.
Solskjaer though, seems to prefer versatility in the forward line with the front four able to swap positions among each other. The hope will be that the duo of Rashford and Martial can strike a chemistry and work in tandem irrespective of their starting positions on the field.
The other two positions though, could be up for grabs and will depend on how Solskjaer wants his team to play. If the manager wants to continue with the high press, we should see Jesse Lingard start over Juan Mata and Daniel James provide the pace for the counter attacks.
Mason Greenwood is also a good shout to start on the right, but for the match against Chelsea, we believe Daniel James will likely get the nod as he played more minutes during the pre-season.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Pogba; James, Lingard, Martial; Rashford
If there’s one position that’s locked in, it is Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal. The Spaniard comes into the season as the club’s first-choice and should start against Manchester United on Sunday. The defence though, is a problem. Emerson Palmieri is likely to be the first-choice at left-back against Manchester United, with Cesar Azpilicueta likely to start on the right.
There is some excitement around Stamford Bridge despite the transfer ban, with speculation that the likes of Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham are likely to be permanent fixtures in the first-team setup for the 2019-20 season under Frank Lampard.
With David Luiz gone and Antonio Rudiger injured, Lampard could have to start his Chelsea managerial career with the pairing of Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen. Lampard also fields a 4-2-3-1, which means the pivot duo of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante should start at the base of the midfield, with Mateo Kovacic having to make do with a place on the bench.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is out and Willian is not 100% fit, which means Christian Pulisic and Pedro should start on either side of the number 10, which should be filled by Mason Mount. Ross Barkley is also an option. But, Mount is already well-versed with Lampard’s tactical style, having spent a season under him at Derby County and should be preferred over his compatriot.
While there are shouts to start Tammy Abraham, we could see Chelsea start with Olivier Giroud upfront maybe to enable a smoother brand of possession football. But, Abraham has been the preferred first-choice in pre-season and is likely to lead the Chelsea attack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Christensen, Emerson; Jorginho, Kante; Pedro, Mount, Pulisic; Abraham
1. Manchester United to win @ 2.10
2. Manchester United Clean Sheet – YES @ 2.75
1. Manchester United Asian Handicap -1.5 @ 4.000
1. Manchester United (18) and Chelsea (17) have won more opening matchday games than any other Premier League side.
2. Manchester United are unbeaten in their last six home league games (2W, 4D) against Chelsea, whose last win at Old Trafford came in 2013, with Juan Mata scoring the winner.
3. Manchester United have won just two of their last 13 Premier League matches against Chelsea.
4. Manchester United are without a clean sheet for 15 consecutive games in all competitions, their longest run without a shutout in the Premier League era.
5. Eden Hazard was the only Chelsea player to reach double figures in either goals or assists (16G, 15A) in the 2018-19 Premier League.
Player to Watch
Martial is Manchester United’s #9 once again and this might reflect the confidence and faith Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has in his ability. Often, the key to unlocking a player’s potential is to show him he has the backing of his teammates and manager and we could see the Martial of 2015-16 re-emerge from the shadows.
The Frenchman seems to be striking a good accord with Marcus Rashford in attack and the duo has to shoulder the burden of goals, if they are to successfully replace the ones provided by Lukaku over the last couple of seasons. In pre-season, we saw a Martial that looked hungrier and up for pressing, something he has been called out for earlier.
There is a general air of expectancy surrounding the Frenchman’s play and we could see that convert into something credible against Chelsea.
Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea
It is going to be a difficult game for both teams, one coming on the back of a disappointing season and the other coming into the game after losing key first-team stars in the transfer window. But, Manchester United look more prepared for the game, judging by pre-season.
Also, the injury to Antonio Rudiger and the departure of David Luiz will be a big miss for Chelsea. Cesar Azpilicueta is the only experienced player expected to start in the backline and the lack of it might hinder Chelsea’s chances of keeping the Manchester United attackers at bay.
United, on the other hand, have brought in two quality defenders and have their defence set. We expect the home side to keep a clean sheet and were going to go with a 0-0 draw. But, David Luiz’s exit has made us change our stance and we are now going with a 2-0 win for Manchester United, who look better at the back and fitter overall compared to Chelsea.