Thursday 18 October 2018

Match preview: Chelsea v Man Utd

The Premier League returns in style after the international break as United return to action with a daunting looking trip to Maurizio Sarri's unbeaten and high flying Chelsea.
Can Jose Mourinho's men build on our dramatic, late, climb-off-the-canvas victory over Newcastle last time out or will this once again prove to be a (Stamford) Bridge too far for the Reds? Our recent record at the home of the Blues makes for messy, ugly and unwelcome viewing with United having picked up only a solitary point since our last win on the ground in 2012, having lost eight of nine ties in all competitions at what has become a horrific, far from happy hunting ground for the team. The visit to SW6 marks the beginning of a brutal run of fixtures for Jose's United, with a Champions League double header against Juventus, an away trip to another in-form side, Bournemouth, and Pep Guardiola's champions from across the city all looming large in United's rear-view mirror.

Anyway, enough doom and gloom, there is some reason to be optimistic. Luke Shaw has signed a new five year deal, and the aforementioned win over the Toon lifted some of the clouds that have enveloped Old Trafford for much of the season. Alexis Sanchez stepped off the bench to nod home the winner last time out and is likely to start in attack ahead of the benched Anthony Martial. Nemanja Matic withdrew from Serbia's international ties and is set to miss out against his former team, which could mean a recall for Ander Herrera to recall his long-running tussle with arguably the best player in the league at present, Chelsea's top scorer and their talismanic figurehead Eden Hazard. There are fitness concerns over several first team Reds, with Jesse Lingard (groin), Scott McTominay (ankle) and Marcos Rojo (knee) all expected to miss out but Marouane Fellaini is also in contention. For Chelsea, Antonio Rudiger and youngster Ethan Ampadu are the only absentees.

What Jose would have ideally wanted after the team's dramatic comeback against Newcastle was another home game in quick succession to try and build some much-needed momentum and form.
Instead, after a fortnight's wait he has a return to Stamford Bridge, where he has lost on every visit since he left Chelsea for a second time.
It will be fascinating to see if United can use the remarkable second-half performance at Old Trafford in any way to dent Sarri's hugely impressive start to his tenure in west London.
Chelsea are seven points better off under the Italian than they were 12 months ago under his compatriot Antonio Conte and have implemented their new manager's philosophy instantly, sitting level on points and throwing down the gauntlet as the closest challengers to fellow early pacesetters Liverpool and Manchester City at the top of the table with six wins and two draws so far.
The first managerial meeting of Messrs Sarri and Mourinho adds a fascinating subplot to this always anticipated battle between two of English football's heavyweight sides.

Form guide: Chelsea W D W D W W Man Utd W D D L D W
Match odds: Chelsea 3/4 Draw 27/10 Man Utd 15/4
Referee: Wirral whistler Mike Dean is the man in the middle at the Bridge

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