Our writer previews the EPL clash between Chelsea and Manchester United, which takes place at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening.
Jose Mourinho will return to the place he is loved the most, Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Manchester United lock horns with Chelsea in what promises to be a mouth-watering encounter. Mourinho has only come up against Antonio Conte once. It was back in 2009 when Mourinho's Inter were held 1-1 by Conte's Atalanta in a Serie A encounter. It will still be quite strange for Chelsea fans to see their most successful manager in the away dugout, but he’s likely to receive a great reception from the Blues fans.
The Blues are in good form having won back-to-back games against Hull and champions Leicester, scoring five goals and keeping clean sheets in both. United are unbeaten in their last three matches in the Premier League, but have drawn the last two. Mourinho knows Chelsea like the back of his hand, but he’ll be up against a master tactician in Conte, who is getting the best out of his players in an attack-minded 3-4-3 system.
Chelsea v Manchester United | Sunday 23 October | Stamford Bridge | 17:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Chelsea 11/10 | Draw 47/20 | Man United 49/20
Chelsea are coming off an emphatic 3-0 victory over Leicester City, the team that succeeded them as Premier League winners. Antonio Conte continued with his new 3-4-3 system, making it back-to-back wins since switching to a three-man defence. Despite the return to fitness of John Terry, David Luiz operated as the deepest centre-back with Gary Cahill playing on the left and Cesar Azpilicueta on the right side. All were rock-solid and routinely mopped up any threat, not allowing the Foxes a single shot on target. It was a performance of growing authority for Chelsea and Conte could even afford to give Nathaniel Chalobah, Ola Aina and Ruben Loftus-Cheek some minutes on the pitch. Although, the Italian will be most pleased that Diego Costa – who started the game on four bookings – avoided a potential suspension.
The Blues have won five of their eight matches this season and are three points adrift of leaders Manchester City. They’ve also won four out of five matches (including the 3-2 win against Bristol Rovers in the EFL Cup) at Stamford Bridge this season – they had won just five in the entirety of the 2014-15 campaign. Chelsea have recovered from a poor spell of form by beating Hull City away and then Leicester at home, making sure they head into their clash with Manchester United in good heart. The Blues will be targeting maximum points against the Red Devils, who they haven’t lost to since 2012. They’re are unbeaten in their last 10 meetings against United, however, they’ve won just four times – three coming from their last five meetings at Stamford Bridge.
After back-to-back clean sheets, Conte is likely to remain with the trio of Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta in defence, meaning John Terry may be named on the bench yet again. Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso will continue as the wing-backs, providing defensive solidity as well as an attacking threat. In front of the defence will be N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic, who are forming a solid partnership. Willian is expected to return to the lineup in place of Pedro and will join Costa and Eden Hazard in the front three. Costa is the league’s top scorer and he’ll be looking to extend his tally of seven goals.
Jose Mourinho will return to Stamford Bridge with just one thing on his mind, three vital points. The Red Devils are five points adrift of leaders Manchester City and Arsenal and cannot afford to lose further ground on their rivals. Despite going unbeaten in their last three Premier League games, United have only managed to win once (4-1 at home to Leicester), drawing back-to-back matches against Stoke and Liverpool. Away from home, they started well having won consecutive games against Bournemouth and Hull City, but were then beaten 3-1 by Watford before Monday’s uneventful goalless draw at Anfield.
Mourinho got exactly what he came for against Liverpool, a valuable point against Jurgen Klopp’s in-form side. United’s plan was to frustrate the Reds and it showed as they saw only 35% possession of the ball, their lowest ever figure. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was often isolated up front, with Paul Pogba unable to get enough time on the ball to create any threat, while the partnership of Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera bossed the midfield. Although he’d love to get three points against Chelsea, who decided to sack him seven months after winning the league, Mourinho will be content to take a point back to Manchester.
United are likely to put out a similar team that played against Liverpool, with Ashley Young the only player I expect to be replaced. The backline picks itself with goalkeeper David de Gea protected by Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind. In midfield, Fellaini and Herrera will sit deep in midfield while Pogba will be allowed to do the roaming. Ibrahimovic, who has caused Chelsea many of problems in the past with PSG, will spearhead the attack and look to fire his side to victory. The powerful striker hasn’t found the net in four consecutive league matches and Mourinho will need him to rise to the big occasion. Marcus Rashford will offer a threat on the right, while fans will be hoping to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan get a chance on the left side of attack. Anthony Martial remains a doubt after suffering a knee injury in training.
Verdict: Chelsea Win/Draw (3/10)
Chelsea look to have got their swagger back and are thriving in their new 3-4-3 system. The Blues have won three out of four home games, while United are winless in their last two travels. Chelsea haven’t lost to United since 2012 and have won three of their last five meetings at Stamford Bridge. Conte’s side are tipped on the Win/Draw Double Chance at 3/10.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets