Manchester United have entered a gruelling period of fixtures, having drawn against Liverpool recently, ground out a narrow win against Spurs, and will now visit London to take on Antonio Conte’s Chelsea on Sunday. Arsenal will be playing Manchester City, so both Manchester sides will anxiously be hoping to take points off their London opponents, but United more so in order to stay in touching distance of City at the summit of the log.
Gary Cahill v Romelu Lukaku: The Chelsea defence has been at sixes-and-sevens for the past few games, but they’ll be facing off against Lukaku who hasn’t scored a goal in six matches. Lukaku has a reputation for stuttering against elite opposition, so an under-performing Chelsea defence might be boosted by the prospect of facing an equally-struggling striker.
Tiemoue Bakayoko v Nemanja Matic: Nemanja Matic’s departure from Chelsea was a bit of a conundrum this past summer, and his replacement Bakayoko hasn’t quite managed to find his feet in the middle of the park. However, Matic has been a mainstay for United and provided their midfield with much needed solidity, but the big Serbian will need to go toe-to-toe with the younger Frenchman and track his marauding midfield runs.
Hazard v Herrera/Valencia: The last time these two sides met, Mourinho doled out a tactical masterclass by pinning Ander Herrera on Eden Hazard, effectively icing Chelsea’s Belgian playmaker out of the game completely. Mourinho likes attempting to neutralise the opposition threats in away games, so he may choose to go with the same tactic again. The tricky part will be mitigating whatever Antonio Conte tries to do to combat his star player being marked for 90 minutes. Could lightning strike the same spot twice?
3 Things to Watch:
Lukaku’s drought: Much has been made of Lukaku’s inability to find the net for the last six games, and it’s probably weighing on him too. Chelsea haven’t been solid in defence lately though, shipping three goals away at Roma in midweek – so this game could be where Lukaku breaks his duck and gets the fans and press off his back.
Mourinho to use 3 at the back: Mourinho has dabbled with the 3-5-2/3-4-3 formation a few times this season, mostly using it against other teams also set up with three at the back. Since it’s been Chelsea’s favoured system to use, Mourinho could mirror their set up which would require a bit of a squad reshuffle to accommodate the three central defenders.
Ex-Chelsea Returnees: Romelu Lukaku, Juan Mata, and Nemanja Matic are all ex-Chelsea players that have done wonders for United since making the swap to the Red Devils. Can either of these three players haunt their old team to give United all three points at the weekend?
Predicted Line Ups:
After their disappointing 3-0 loss in Rome, Chelsea’s confidence will no doubt have taken a hit, but it may generate a spirited response from the team which could mean they come out of the gates strong against United. Mourinho will undoubtedly try and slow the game and shut Chelsea’s build-up down, but these are still the current champions and there’s a lot of quality in their squad. Should United win though, it’ll be a boost to their title credentials to take 7 out of 9 points against Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea in short succession.
Predicted Result: Chelsea 0 – 1 Manchester United
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