Chelsea vs Manchester United
Venue: Stamford Bridge
TV: Sky Sports Main Event
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Chelsea host Manchester United as the battle for the top four intensifies at Stamford Bridge. Both sides have been increasingly patchy in recent months but with 5th place likely to be enough for Champions League football given Manchester City’s ban for a range of financial irregularities, Monday night would be a good place for both sides to hit form.
Such is the level of mediocrity in the battle for Champions League, Chelsea have won only four of their last thirteen games but are still in fourth place. Frank Lampard’s side have also struggled at home with only five wins in twelve at Stamford Bridge and only 44% of their points this season coming at home. They will also be looking to avenge a 4-0 loss to Manchester United on the opening day as well as a League Cup defeat at home.
That 4-0 win by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side was a deceptive display with Chelsea dominating and wasting early chances before being ruthlessly destroyed on the counter-attack. Despite only eight further wins all season, Manchester United are still in the Champions League mix and an away win on Monday night would cut the gap to fourth to only three points.
An away win would rest on the ability of Manchester United to cut through Chelsea on the counter-attack. Chelsea have lost four home games already this season and outshot and had more possession than their opponents on all four occasions. Those four losses only produced one goal – a Kante consolation against Liverpool – despite an average 64% percent possession and a shot count of 60-27 in favour of Chelsea.
This could play into Solskjaer’s sides hands as the counter-attacking away wins against Manchester City, (twice) and Chelsea have already shown. United will be without a host of important players as Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Scott Mctominay are all still missing with Axel Tuanzebe also out.
They also need to contend with Anthony Martial’s lack of form in recent weeks as the Frenchman hasn’t scored since Rashford picked up his back injury and just as Rashford struggled without Martial to work off earlier in the season, Martial now seems to be struggling to lead the line alone.
Martial will welcome the introduction of new signing Bruno Fernandes. The Portuguese playmaker was a bright spark on debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers before the winter break and much of the rest of Manchester United’s season could rest on his creative ability.
Chelsea have no serious long term injuries although the game will likely come too soon for Ruben Loftus Cheek and Christian Pulisic. Tammy Abraham should shake off an ankle knock to lead the line. Lampard will likely reinstate Kepa in goal but the Spanish keeper must be on his way out given his erratic form and having the lowest save percentage in the league.
Chelsea made a statement signing in their winter break as Hakim Zayech was bought for around £33 million and will join ready for next season. The attacking midfielder will keep the likes of Pulisic and Hudson Odoi on their toes for the rest of the season.
The signing of Zayech provided welcome positivity for Chelsea but the mood at Old Trafford should be significantly darker as the scrutiny intensifies over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s involvement in helping Babacar Sarr avoid justice for charges of alleged rape whilst manager of Molde, as the embattled club legend stumbles on as manager.
Predicted Starting XIs
Chelsea (4-3-3): Kepa; James, Rudiger, Christensen, Azpiliqueta; Kante, Kovacic, Jorginho; Mount, Hudson Odoi, Abraham
Manchester United (4-3-3): De Gea; Wan Bissaka, Maguire, Lindelof, Shaw; Matic, Fred, Fernandes; Lingard, James, Martial
Score Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United