Our football pundit shares his insights on this weekends much anticipated Sunday clash as Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Super Sunday awaits as Chelsea host Manchester United in what has proven to be one of the biggest rivalries in English football. The Mourinho derby, as some of you know it. The champions sit fourth on the table after successive wins over Everton and Bournemouth, while Manchester United, despite sitting second, haven’t been too convincing with their performances. However, that is exactly what Jose Mourinho wants from his team. Who can fault him for getting a point at Anfield and maximum points at home to Tottenham? This will be a huge test for both clubs and will also give us some indication as to whether ‘Judas’ is still number one.
Chelsea 29/20 | Draw 21/10 | Manchester United 2/1
Since the start of the campaign, Premier League champions, Chelsea, have blown hot and cold. Some would say that it’s because of their champagne hangovers from their celebrations last season, or that injuries to certain players have cost them in crucial times.
They’ll fancy their chances against the Red Devils, who they have an impressive record over, especially in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era. Surprisingly, Chelsea are the only team in England that have a better head-to-head record over United.
Antonio Conte’s men are undefeated in seven matches at Stamford Bridge against Man United, winning five of those fixtures. However, their record at home hasn’t been so eye-catching this season, especially against the big guns. They got maximum points at Wembley against Tottenham, but were held to a goalless draw by Arsenal and suffered a 1-0 defeat to fellow Manchester giants, Man City.
The Blues are still one of the few teams in England that can strike fear into the opposition, though. They have arguably the Premier League’s best player in Eden Hazard, and N’Golo Kante, who leaves a massive hole in midfield when he is absent.
They also have a £75m striker in the form of Alvaro Morata. The 25-year old Spaniard was guilty of not punishing former Chelsea goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, when he should have this past weekend. He missed two gilt-edged chances against Bournemouth and hasn’t scored in the Premier League since the Blues’ 4-0 win over Stoke City back in September.
Conte, who signed him as manager of Chelsea and Juventus, gave the forward his backing, while also suggesting that he could do better.
“For sure, he can do better but, don’t forget, he is recovering from a muscular problem.
“When you have this type of problem, it needs a bit of time to come back to the best physical condition.
“But I’m very happy with his performance. He recovered very important balls a lot of times in transition,” he concluded.
Morata will need to lace up his scoring boots tightly this Sunday, especially as he comes up against his countryman, David De Gea, who is regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in world football and to show the Mancunians what they missed out on when they had the opportunity to sign him before the season started.
Jose Mourinho, Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata. Manchester United are obviously huge admirers of the Chelsea side of old. Mata was once a Chelsea Player of the Year, Matic won two titles at the Bridge and Lukaku is just the one that got away.
As for Mourinho, statistics prove that he is the Blues’ most successful manager, but fans’ hatred towards him have grown since his departure. The ‘Special One’ hit back at the Chelsea supporters back in March when he came out and said: “When they have somebody that wins four Premier Leagues for them, I become number two. Until this moment Judas is number one.”
There was talk of United having an ‘Invincible season’, but that came to an abrupt end when they were humbled to a 2-1 scoreline at Huddersfield. Apart from that, you cannot fault any of Man United’s results this season.
They’re not the most exciting team to watch, but this has been Mourinho’s tactics for many years, so nothing has surprised me this season. They battered almost every team in the league, and when football fans questioned whether they can do it against the big teams, they got a point away to Liverpool and all three at home to Tottenham.
In all honesty, the Red Devils have missed Paul Pogba in midfield. That has also resulted to the recent dip in form of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Pogba complemented United in a way that hadn’t been done since the early days of Michael Carrick.
What has also helped the Red Devils this season is the brilliance of De Gea. The Spanish shot-stopper has kept eight clean sheets in 10 games this season, and has made a number of jaw-dropping saves. De Gea has proved that not only strikers win you games, but goalkeepers as well.
The man who is expected to win games and score loads of goals has come under immense pressure at the club. Manchester United’s number nine, Lukaku, has been criticised for going missing in the big games – and rightfully so.
“A lot of strikers miss bigger chances than me but with me it is always, ‘Rom did this, Rom did that’,” he came out and said.
Mourinho has also defended the big Belgian striker, saying that he is untouchable in his team.
“What he does for the team is fantastic and to play football for a striker is not just about scoring goals. For me, he is untouchable in my team,” said the Manchester United boss.
Like Morata for Chelsea, Lukaku will need to be at his best to return to goalscoring form. He’s scored against his former employers before, but you get the feeling that it would mean much more to him doing it in United colours.
- Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Zappacosta, Kante, Fabregas, Bakayoko, Alonso; Hazard; Morata.
Manchester United: 3-4-3
- De Gea; Bailly, Smalling, Jones; Valencia, Matic, Herrera, Young; Mkhitaryan, Lukaku, Rashford.
Verdict: 0-0 Draw (7/1)
Coming into this match, we already know what to expect from both managers. Mourinho will sit deep and frustrate Chelsea, while Conte will be wary of sending too many players forward to avoid being hit on the counter-attack. Without Pogba, I think there’s no chance of United getting maximum points at the Bridge, meaning that they have no other option but to ‘park the bus’. Chelsea didn’t score in both home matches against the top sides played and I’m expecting another dull affair. Get on the Correct Score market and back the 0-0 scoreline at a whopping 7/1!