A mouth-watering contest awaits between Manchester United and Chelsea
Manchester United to win 2-1
After finishing third and fourth at the end of last season, Manchester United and Chelsea would have both expected to kick on this season, aiming to close the gap on champions Liverpool.
That hasn’t looked the case in their opening matches of the season, with both sides suffering from mixed form and defensive weaknesses which have hindered their progress.
Manchester United have lost to Crystal Palace and been thumped by Tottenham, whilst Chelsea have been poor in draws against West Brom and Southampton, conceding three goals on each occasion.
It’s safe to say that both are more comfortable going forward than defending.
United may just have more confidence going into this one – they thrashed Newcastle 4-1 last weekend, before recording a memorable victory over PSG in the Champions League midweek. Chelsea managed a 0-0 draw against Sevilla.
This will be a close game.
Form Guide (all comps): WWLWW
Reasons to be cheerful:
Bounced back well after Spurs defeat
Are starting to look like the Manchester United of last season
Reasons to be fearful:
Manager is still unsure of his best team
Defensive weaknesses could prove costly
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be tempted to play three at the back, as he did in their brilliant midweek win over PSG in the Champions League.
There was a great balance to the team with McTominay and Fred in midfield and with Rashford and Martial upfront that this will have given him food for thought.
Unfortunately, the last time they played three at the back previously was also against Chelsea, in the FA Cup Semi-Final where they were thoroughly outplayed. Chelsea play three at the back themselves and are usually better exponents of it.
Having said that, there is a confidence now about United, who have rebounded well after the 6-1 Spurs defeat two weeks ago.
Rashford looks sharp, and Edinson Cavani could make his debut either from the start of off the bench. The manager’s biggest decision could be whether to play the talented but ill-disciplined Pogba, or the more reliable offerings of Fred or McTominay.
Star Man – Marcus Rashford
Has looked in great form recently – scored for England in the International break, as well as in United’s last two games.
Form Guide (all comps): DLWDD
Reasons to be cheerful
Mendy has improved them in goal
Scoring goals has not been a problem for Chelsea
Reasons to be fearful
Only one win in last five
Unsure on their best centre back partnership
New signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are just starting to pay back their club for their substantial transfer fees with some good performances of late.
Werner, in particular, played excellently against Southampton, taking his two goals exceptionally well.
He’ll have a tougher time of it against United’s defenders, particularly if the Reds stick with Axel Tuanzebe who was phenomenal in Paris.
Lampard also seems a little unsure of his best midfield at present, with the usually brilliant Kante more subdued of late. Thiago Silva, at 36, also cannot be expected to play every game.
But Chelsea have plenty of firepower going forward and it will be another difficult afternoon for United’s defenders.
Star Man – Timo Werner
Finally exploded to life in the Premier League with two great goals against Southampton
Game has the makings of a high-scoring encounter
Both sides are much better at going forward than defending
United will fancy their chances at home
Manchester United will go into this game with more momentum than their opponents, following encouraging wins against Newcastle and PSG.
Their form is not consistent enough to call them outright favourites, but their confidence should mean that they will fancy their chances.
If they keep things tight at the back, their forward players have the quality to punish any errors from Chelsea.
It could go either way, but United will back themselves at home.
Manchester United to win 2-1