Our footy scribe previews the EPL contest between Man United and Chelsea at Old Trafford.It may be one of the shortest coaching rivalries, but Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte's rivalry is certainly proving to be one of the most ferocious in world football. The rivalry comes after Mourinho was critical of Conte's celebrations following Chelsea's 4-0 win over Manchester United in the Premier League back in October, calling it a lack of respect.
To add fuel to the fire, Mourinho snubbed Conte for a handshake when the Blues beat United 1-0 in the FA Cup quarter-finals last month. During that game, Chelsea fans, who once idolized the self-proclaimed 'Special One', taunted their former boss with chants of “Judas” and “You're not special anymore”. In his post-match interview, Mourinho subsequently declared “Judas is number one” until another Chelsea manager wins more than his three Premier League titles with the club. If their recent meetings are anything to go by, then there are sure to be fireworks when Chelsea and Manchester United clash at Old Trafford on Sunday.
English Premier League | Sunday 16 April | Old Trafford | 17:00
To Win Match (90 Mins)
Man United 33/20 | Draw 21/10 | Chelsea 7/4
Fifth-placed Manchester United find themselves in a similar predicament to when they faced Chelsea in the FA Cup last month. They have a crucial Europa League clash with Belgian side Anderlecht in between this mouth-watering tie and for me they've got to put all their eggs in that basket. United are the strongest team left in the competition and have a better chance of winning it than finishing fourth. But Mourinho is not the type to throw in the towel so he’ll probably be prioritising a top four finish in exactly the same way.
The Red Devils recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory over 10-man Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last Sunday thanks to goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford. That was United’s third consecutive win on the road and their sixth from their past seven matches. But it’s their home form that doesn’t bode well.
United have been hugely disappointing in front of their own fans for much of the campaign. Mourinho’s side were booed off in their last encounter at Old Trafford following a 1-1 draw against Everton. That was their ninth draw at home from 16 matches and their fifth stalemate in the last six games.
Old Trafford no longer seems to hold that fear factor as United face potentially their fewest wins at home in a Premier League season this term. They’ve won only six times at home so far, and if they manage wins in their final three they can equal David Moyes’ record of nine in 2013/14.
Even more worryingly, United have not beaten Chelsea in their last 12 attempts, with their most recent win in October 2012. The Blues have the best record of any Premier League side against United, and are the only side to have won more league games than they have lost against the Red Devils.
Manchester United paid big money for Paul Pogba and the former Juventus star needs to step up in the big games. There can be no denying his talent and ability but he still has to prove himself capable of stepping up to the mark when his team need him most. It won’t be easy facing the tireless N'Golo Kante but Pogba will need to run the show for United and prove he’s still France’s No. 1 midfielder. Pogba has scored just four goals with three assists this season, that's simply not good enough.
Ibrahimovic has been United’s standout performer this season, netting 17 goals in 27 appearances. Zlatan caused Chelsea many problems in his PSG days but he struggled against former team-mate David Luiz at Stamford Bridge this season. The powerful Swede was sorely missed in last month’s FA Cup clash against the Blues, forced to sit out through suspension. Zlatan has been in free-scoring form at Old Trafford, scoring seven goals while racking up four assists.
Antonio Conte became the first-ever manager to do the league double over Pep Guardiola and the Italian will hope to do the same against Mourinho. The Premier League leaders will look to continue their impressive record against United and get the better of their former boss for the third time this season.
The Blues ran out comfortable 4-0 winners in the reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge thanks to goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Kante. The teams also met in a feisty FA Cup quarter-final clash last month - which was settled by Kante's strike. Despite the tight scoreline, the Premier League leaders coasted to the win after Ander Herrera was dismissed for two yellow cards.
Chelsea will be hoping to complete a league double over United for the first time since the 2009/2010 campaign. The Blues head to Old Trafford seven points clear of Tottenham with seven games to go in the league.
Kante loves playing against Manchester United, as both of his Chelsea goals have come against Mourinho’s team. The Frenchman has become an important cog in the Chelsea midfield and is among the favourites to win the PFA Player of the Year award. Kante has been the engine driving Chelsea’s attack, and the backbone holding their defence. He has upstaged fellow countryman Pogba this season, despite being £60m cheaper than him.
Hazard caused United all kinds of problems this season and he’ll provide a constant threat with his movement, quick feet, brilliant creativity and an eye for goal. The Belgian star has 14 goals – three in his last two games – and five assists in the Premier League and he loves a goal against United.
Verdict: Hazard to Score Anytime & Chelsea Win (7/2)
Both teams will be going all out to win, with United hoping to finish in the top four and Chelsea aiming to move a step closer to the Premier League title. Conte has had the upper hand over Mourinho this season and Chelsea are 12 games unbeaten against United.
Hazard always turns up for the big games and I fancy him to make his mark in this match. Look out for the Price Boosts and Specials - I’m going for Hazard to Score Anytime & Chelsea to win the match at a valuable 7/2.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets