Chelsea welcoming Manchester United to Stamford Bridge is always one of the clashes to look for in the Premier League calendar – and this Saturday will be no different as Jose Mourinho takes his side to his once-happy stomping ground in King’s Road.
Chelsea are one of the high-flyers in the Premier League at the moment – and are one of the three sides yet to taste a defeat in the opening 8 games so far. The Blues have been very impressive on the pitch – and in adapting to Sarri’s style of football which is already markedly different to the football they played under Antonio Conte in that the West London club are now much more expansive, in control of the ball and also surprisingly a touch more exposed at the back, as the trade-off.
With 20 points on board, Sarri’s outfit come off the back of an impressive streak of wins – including the result against Liverpool in the League Cup, showing how ready they are for a trophy push under the Italian. In playing to the strengths of their best forward players, Chelsea do look like they are capable of beating any side, and a wounded and out-of-form Manchester United should not threaten them on Saturday, going by the form of both sides so far.
Manchester United have struggled at Stamford Bridge in the best of days and it is notable that Chelsea are the side they have lost to – more times than any other in the Premier League throwing light on how difficult a place they have found Stamford Bridge to be historically, to get a result.
Under Jose Mourinho, their fortunes have not been improved as they suffered their heaviest loss under him in West London two years ago, in addition to getting beat by a narrower margin (1-0) last year, even in a campaign, they finished ahead of them.
With Chelsea now clearly in better shape, it is an uphill task for Mourinho and one he is likely to approach in the only manner he is comfortable with: i.e to avoid defeat. United’s back four has been uncommonly leaky this season, having conceded 14 goals in 8 (4th worst defence in the division), meaning something has to give on Saturday between Mourinho’s pragmatism and United’s instability at the back for the visitors to come away with a positive result in the weekend.
Antonio Rüdiger withdrew from Germany’s squad during the international break and is a doubt for Chelsea on Saturday.
Scott McTominay, Marouane Fellaini, Ander Herrera, and Nemanja Matic are all doubts for Manchester United. Marcos Rojo and Jesse Lingard are expected to miss out once again for the away side, while Alexis Sanchez is a fitness concern after returning late from international duty with Chile. Luke Shaw, who has recently signed a contract extension at Old Trafford, is expected to start at his preferred left-back role for the away side.
- Chelsea’s solitary defeat in the past 16 Premier League meetings at Stamford Bridge came in October 2012 when they had two players sent off (W10, D5, L1).
- Manchester United haven’t won a competitive fixture away to Chelsea in six attempts since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2012-13 season, drawing once and losing five times.
- The Blues have won 10 and lost just one of their past 15 Premier League matches.
- Eight of Chelsea’s 18 league goals this season have been scored after the 75th minute.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
Being the division’s top scorer with 7 goals to his name, Eden Hazard is the obvious game changer for Chelsea. His goal against Liverpool in the League cup summed up what he can do, to turn a game on its head and will once again prove to be a menace against a Manchester United back five – that is bereft of any confidence and cohesion. Much of the outcome on Saturday will hinge on how Hazard is going to deal with his marker on the day.
Alexis Sanchez – Manchester United
A few days ago, I penned a piece on how Mourinho can regain his mojo by playing Alexis Sanchez centrally – just behind the striker, where he can have the maximum impact in front of goal. Sanchez, after a forgettable start to life at Manchester United, came on at Old Trafford in a difficult period and scored the winner in a game where they were down 2-0 for 70 minutes of the match. That is not to be taken lightly.
Manchester United indeed have issues and that win only papered over the cracks but at the same time, they are not a bad side at all; and they are far from it. With Lukaku not in scintillating form up front, it would not kill the Portuguese to throw a curve ball on Saturday by playing Sanchez in a more central area where he can constantly be on the lookout for the final ball and unsettle their defenders and latch on to any moment of weakness shown in the Blues’ defence. This is the only way they can hurt Chelsea on Saturday.
I cannot see anything other than a fairly comfortable home win on Saturday.
Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United