A Blue Up North previews Chelsea’s home match against Manchester United.
As The Premier League kicks back into action, Chelsea host Manchester United in the early kick off this Saturday lunchtime. And what a cracker of a match we start with to get everyone back in to club football after last weekend’s international break.
Chelsea remain unbeaten under their new manager with the media and fans impressed with both results and the quality of football shown by The Blues so far this season, while Jose Mourinho has been under increasing pressure from within the media after a stuttering start.
The international break was not the best timed for either manager – Chelsea were on a roll after an enjoyable away win at Southampton that placed The Blues joint top of the league, while The Red Devils had fought back from a 2-0 deficit at home to Newcastle United to win 3-2.
The other main issue with international breaks is the fitness and tiredness levels of returning players. Fortunately, both clubs have come through the last 2 weeks relatively unscathed. Antonio Rudiger has recovered from his groin problem and, with a fit again Mateo Kovacic also available, Maurizio Sarri should be able to name his preferred starting XI. Ross Barkley may not be involved, while Ethan Ampadu is definitely out.
Jose Mourinho will have a few decisions to make as United will have to assess the fitness of Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard, but Chelsea nemesis Andre Herrera should return from his ankle injury.
The former Blue manager will understand how important the result of this match will be for his club, their season and also his future. Another loss at Stamford Bridge would ensure they equal the club’s lowest points tally after nine matches of a Premier League season and you need to go back to the old First Division for the previous time United had lost 4 of their opening 9 league matches. These statistics will be flying around the media as they vie for Mourinho’s head if United were to lose and their fans will not rush to defend the Portuguese manager and his style of play. But this match is not all about one man.
Chelsea will be looking towards keeping up their impressive record against Manchester United going. 6 wins and a draw in their last 7 league meetings in West London, including clean sheets on the last 3 occasions. A home win will continue the fantastic start that Sarri has made as he moulds the Chelsea squad in to his own style.
New signings Kepa Arrizabalaga, Jorginho and Kovacic have settled into the team very smoothly, David Luiz has returned to the side as strong as ever, but it is the freedom with which Eden Hazard has been playing has been the main revelation. Top goalscorer, player of the month and being linked to Real Madrid are the evidence that the Belgian is currently in his best vain of form. Another masterclass from Chelsea’s talisman is likely to be too much for a fragile United defence.
However, as all Chelsea fans know, a cornered Mourinho who has the odds stacked against him is a dangerous animal. This match has all the ingredients of him conducting his side to an unexpected result. After all, almost all of his players all have points to prove.
Despite this though, surely Sarri’s Blue side will have too much for Mourinho and his Red Devils. But it is this uncertainty that will make this match The Big One for all who will be watching.
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Written by Jon Ellis, home and away season ticket holder. Follow him on Twitter @ClitheroeBlue