Prediction: Correct score 1-1
Two of the main contenders for the Premier League top four square off this weekend as Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Just six points separate the two sides in the table and with the league title looking likely to evade both, a victory in West London could see each of them put down a real statement in the race for UEFA Champions League football next season.
It would be an understatement to say that Thomas Tuchel has had a hugely positive impact since replacing Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge. The dramatic 1-0 win against Atletico Madrid last time out made eight matches unbeaten in all competitions at the start of his tenure. Despite that great run, the Blues were left somewhat frustrated in their last Premier League game against Southampton. Takumi Minamino gave the Saints the lead before a Mason Mount penalty saw Chelsea level. They weren’t quite able to construct an impressive turnaround though. One of the biggest aspects that Tuchel has improved since taking over at the club is the team’s defensive resolve. In their last six league games, Chelsea have only conceded two goals at a rate of one every three games. Under Lampard, they were conceding a goal at a rate of one just under every 75 minutes. That improvement could certainly help them better their current record against the so-called ‘big six’ sides this season. During the season so far, they have only managed to win just one game out of six against fellow ‘big six’ teams – that being the 1-0 win against Tottenham earlier this month.
Following his winning goal against Atleti, Olivier Giroud may well have done enough to force himself into starting contention and could line up alongside Timo Werner in the Chelsea attack. The only enforced absence is set to be defender Thiago Silva. The Brazilian remains out with the thigh injury that has kept him restricted to the sidelines for the past three league games.
The Red Devils head to Stamford Bridge in somewhat indifferent form. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have only won four out of their last nine matches in all competitions, with just two of those success coming in Premier League action. However, it’s been a positive period for the Red Devils, booking their place in the last-16 of the UEFA Europa League, as well as the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Despite their slightly inconsistent run of form, United are remaining undefeated. Since the turn of the year, they have only tasted defeat on two occasions: to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup and to Sheffield United in the Premier League. They went close to losing in their last game, the second leg of their European tie against Real Sociedad but Mikel Oyarzabal missed from the penalty spot in a goalless draw at Old Trafford. Solskjaer will want his side back to their unstoppable best on the road as they head to Stamford Bridge. Having won 10 Premier League away games in a row previously, they have now only taken maximum points in two out of their last six trips at Burnley and Fulham.
David De Gea, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford were all left out of the starting lineup against Socieded and are all likely to return to the XI on Sunday. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Fred and Bruno Fernandes were all also withdrawn at half-time against the Spaniards so should be fresh enough to face Chelsea. Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay could all return to contention after overcoming knocks. Meanwhile, Paul Pogba and Phil Jones remain ruled out, whilst Daniel James suffered an injury on Thursday so could be missing.
Key Facts To Consider
- Manchester United have the better all-time head-to-head record between the two sides (W81, D52, L55)
- The last match between the two this season ended 0-0
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not lost a Premier League match against Chelsea since being Cardiff City manager
- Should Manchester United win, it would be the first time ever that they have won four consecutive matches at Stamford Bridge in all competitions
- There has never been two 0-0 draws in the league between Chelsea or Manchester United in the same season
On reflection, this could be one of the most important matches of each side’s season in their pursuit of Champions League football. That could see it being slightly cagey with a defeat potentially being hugely damaging. A low-scoring draw could potentially be in the offing.
Prediction: Correct score 1-1
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