Friday, June 22, 2018

Prediction: Manchester United vs Chelsea

Verdict: Draw

Best Odds: 11/5

Bookmakers: Bet 365

Manchester United, who currently lead the race for a second place finish in the Premier League, welcome rivals Chelsea to Old Trafford for a high-profile clash on Sunday afternoon. The Red Devils hold a three point lead over the Blues, and head into this game off the back of a shock 1-0 defeat to Newcastle last time out. Chelsea meanwhile dispatched West Brom 3-0 in their last league game, and will carry some confidence into this game having drawn 1-1 with Barcelona in midweek.

Manchester United 

On the surface it looks as if Manchester United are having a great season. With 19 goals conceded in 27 Premier League games they represent the best defensive team in the top flight, and they have also scored an impressive 51 times. Add to that the fact that they sit second in the table behind only a record-breaking Manchester City side, as well as their potential progression to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and you have an impressive display.

On closer inspection however it is not quite as harmonious and successful as it seems. United have actually lost two of their last three league games, including a shock defeat to Newcastle last time out, and they failed to score in those two defeats. Mourinho has also continued his natural progression towards falling out with most of the dressing room, first by taking off Marouane Fellaini just seven minutes after brining him on against Tottenham, and more recently by inexplicably dropping Paul Pogba.

In addition, while statistically the Red Devils have been very good this season, on the pitch they have looked unconvincing and unthreatening at times. Their most recent game, a 0-0 draw against Sevilla, was perfectly emblematic of this. Despite bringing in Romelu Lukaku in the summer and Alexis Sanchez in January, there have been times this season when United just haven’t looked like scoring, and that has been holding them back from challenging their city rivals.

Team News

The Red Devils don’t have many injuries, but a few key players are doubts for this clash. In defence Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo all have knocks and will face late fitness tests.

Elsewhere Marouane Fellaini’s knee injury will keep him out for the long term, while Ander Herrera’s muscle injury that he picked up against Sevilla makes him a doubt. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still recovering from his knee issue.

Chelsea 

It’s easy to view the Blues in a very similar light to Manchester United this season – as a team that seems to be doing very well, but is actually inconsistent and troubled at times. The reigning Premier League champions have the third best defensive record in the league, and have scored 49 times this season, which has allowed them to hover inside the top four. They too reached the last 16 stage of the Champions League, but a 1-1 home draw against Barcelona leaves them with a fair bit to do at the Nou Camp.

Just like United, Chelsea have also lost two of their last three league games, but their defeats came against Bournemouth and Watford, and they conceded a total of seven goals in those two games. For a club with title ambitions that is simply not good enough, and there have been rumblings of discontentment from manager Antonio Conte. Rumours suggest that the Italian coach wants to return to his home country, largely because he hasn’t been able to bring in many of the players that he has wanted.

Of the players Chelsea have signed, Alvaro Morata has scored 10 times, but has been inconsistent and gone missing in big games. Tiemoue Bakayoko meanwhile hasn’t looked good enough to fill the shoes of Nemanja Matic, and Danny Drinkwater has barely featured. The Blues added Olivier Giroud in January, but the big striker is yet to score in the league, and Michy Batshuayi, who they let leave for Borussia Dortmund, has been sensational in the Bundesliga. At present then there are simply too many things not clicking for Chelsea, which is why they have been slowly slipping down the table.

Team News

Antonio Conte has a squad that is mostly fit, but David Luiz has a knock that could keep him out of this game.

Elsewhere Tiemoue Bakayoko also has a knock and will likely face a late fitness test, while Ross Barkley is still recovering from a hamstring issue.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Manchester United have won two, lost two and drawn one of their last five games in all competitions.
  • The Red Devils have also kept three clean sheets and failed to score three times in that same span of games.
  • Chelsea have also won two, lost two and drawn one of their last five games in all competitions.
  • The Blues have scored eight times in their last three games.
  • The last meeting between these sides ended in a narrow home 1-0 win for Chelsea.

Conclusion

Despite signing Alexis Sanchez in January, Manchester United have been struggling for goals lately, and they aren’t looking at all convincing under Jose Mourinho at times this season. Chelsea meanwhile have also been inconsistent of late, and there are some rumblings of discontentment around the club. These are two heavyweight teams that haven’t been performing at their best, and I can see it ending honours even at Old Trafford.

Verdict: Draw

Best Odds: 11/5

Bookmakers: Bet 365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Steeden


Dan is a recent graduate of the University of Birmingham and an often frustrated Wigan Athletic fan. When not despairing at events unfolding at the DW Stadium he can be found fangirling over Antoine Griezmann or staying up into the early hours of the morning to cheer on the Seattle Seahawks.

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