If the last time these two giants met on the opening day of the Premier league was any indicator of how this fixture is going to play out, we are in for a humdinger.
Photo Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Chelsea vs Manchester United | Monday 17 February | Stamford Bridge | 22:00
The scoreline read Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea – but the story of the game was completely the opposite.
Frank Lampard’s charges ran riot with vicious attacking intent, but were unlucky on quite a few occasions, striking the woodwork multiple times, most notably by English starlet Tammy Abraham.
The Blues’ left-back Emerson Palmieri influenced the game in both halves. His attempts struck the woodwork and he kept asking David de Gea to work his socks off with a constant barrage of shots and dangerous crosses from the left flank.
The Italian international left Kurt Zouma with two much space to defend on his own though and the Frenchman brought Marcus Rashford down in the box and conceded a penalty.
On the counter attack during the last moments before the final whistle, the Red Devils new boy Daniel James scored on debut against an overly-exposed Chelsea defence that flattered the scoreline and were victorious on the day, but United manager Ole Gunner Solsjkaer was very grateful to have lady luck on his side.
Man United 7/2
Chelsea would desperately want to avenge the loss in the first league game and to pull away from United and the chasing pack for the fourth UEFA Champions League spot. The Blues haven’t enjoyed playing against the top six teams and have found it difficult to get the desired results.
Nevertheless, the Londoners deservedly sit fourth, having dominated the other teams, and are on course to reach their targets for this season. Given their circumstances with the transfer ban saga, they would gladly take fourth and a strong showing in the UEFA Champions League.
Plenty of homegrown talent have been nurtured at the club but very few have been given a chance to become first-team players for Chelsea. Lampard intends to buck that trend by playing the youngsters who he thinks are good enough and he has shown everyone what type of football he envisages his team on playing. I must say, it is impressive and is only going to get better.
The transfer ban is lifted and Edinson Cavani or a striker of his calibre is going to be joining at the end the season. This will bring another dimension to the team, coupled with the youthful exuberance of players like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Reece James that have been given a season to find their feet – Chelsea are going to be a true force.
For now, they are sweating on the fitness of Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The latter having played an hour behind closed doors for the Under-23s in a friendly against Brentford B at Cobham.
Chelsea have other quality options to utilise if the pair does not make it in time. Pedro has not seen enough game time and has always had a very good record of performing well and scoring against United for Barcelona and the Blues. Experience is needed in games like these and I feel he would be ideal.
United last beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge, recording a 3-2 win over Roberto Di Matteo’s side in October 2012.
Plagued with injuries to key players, United have struggled to find consistency. The Reds have accumulated their worst points tally ever in the Premier League era, winning nine, drawing nine and losing eight times. Scott McTominay, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are all long-term injury absentees and Solsjkaer will be sweating on their fitness.
The Reds new fiery 25-year-old Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes was signed to help United’s under-strength midfield that have failed to be as dynamic and creatively lethal as the top team Liverpool.
After failing to score during the last three Premier League games – 2-0 losses to Liverpool, Burnley and most recently the goalless draw against Wolves, lifelong Manchester United fan Odion Ighalo was shockingly signed on transfer deadline day. No stranger to the Premier League, the Nigerian striker scored 21 goals in 28 matches for Watford in his best goal scoring season.
Solskjaer has made some questionable calls regarding transfers, tactics and when selecting his teams for the top opponents. We really don’t know what to expect from the team, but recently his go-to selection was the 3-4-1-2 system, which allows the opponents to have the ball while they look to hit them on the break, giving opposition wide men no time and space on the ball.
Having missed this trick against Manchester City in the first-leg of the Carabao Cup where United were 3-0 down at half time, Solsjkaer could revert to this system, but tactically Lampard will be prepared.
Verdict: Winning Margins – Chelsea by One Goal (27/10)
Chelsea on the straight win at 8/10 is a top bet this weekend for punters who would prefer to play it safe. For those looking to add value, back the Winning Margins market – Chelsea by one goal 27/10.