Prediction: Manchester United to Win 1-0
The first ‘big-six’ clash of the Premier League season takes place on the opening weekend as Manchester United and Chelsea come together at Old Trafford on Sunday.
The two sides have gone through plenty of change within the last 12 months and are under the tutelage of club legends heading into the new campaign – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard. Each will be extremely keen to get their 2019/20 season off to the best possible start at the Theatre of Dreams.
One of the Red Devils’ major problems from last campaign – their defence – finally appears to have been fixed. Only West Ham United conceded more goals than Manchester United’s 54 throughout the 2018/29 season. Solskjaer has spent a considerable amount trying to rectify that though having spent a world record fee for a defender on Leicester City centre-back Harry Maguire and also swooped for Crystal Palace full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka. That appears to have come at just the right time with the Red Devils not managing to win any of their final five matches in the Premier League at the back-end of last season.
They also appear to have had a relatively positive pre-season having won each of their six matches including against the likes of Inter Milan, Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan. Solskjaer will certainly hope that they continue that good form into the new season as his team aim to earn a place back in the Premier League top-four and with it position in the UEFA Champions League 2019/20. One thing that does bode well for them however is the Premier League opening day record. The Red Devils have won their last five opening matches and have not lost since a 2-1 reverse at the hands of Swansea City in the 2014/15 season.
Summer signings Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James are all expected to be named in the squad for the clash at Old Trafford. However, the team will be without Romelu Lukaku who completed a deadline day switch to Inter Milan. Paul Pogba should return to the starting lineup after suffering with a back spasm. Eric Bailly is definitely ruled out alongside Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Alexis Sanchez.
It’s certainly been a turbulent off-season at Chelsea. Amidst a transfer ban, owner Roman Abramovich elected to make a managerial change as he let go Europa League winner Maurizio Sarri and brought in former Blues hero Frank Lampard. The former midfielder now embarks on his first ever Premier League season as a manager and will hope to build on the Blues’ third-place finish last season. If pre-season has provided any clues as to how the current campaign will pan out, it is that Chelsea should be entertaining. In seven pre-season matches, the Blues scored 18 goals but also conceded nine, six of which came in 4-3 and 5-3 victories over Reading and Red Bull Salzburg respectively.
One aspect that they will need to rectify as the season approaches is finding a way of replacing the goals and contributions of star Eden Hazard after the Belgian departed for Real Madrid. The Belgian scored a quarter of the Blues’ total amount of goals in the Premier League last season so his absence will clearly be felt, even with the addition of Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund.
Despite a transfer ban, Chelsea were still able to do some business this summer with the likes of the aforementioned Pulisic and Mateo Kovacic signing for the club. All of their loan stars have returned so it is likely that Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and others will hope to make an impact at Stamford Bridge. There have also been a few departures as Danny Drinkwater has joined Burnley on-loan and David Luiz departed for Arsenal. There are also a few injury problems in West London. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Antonio Rudiger and Reece James are out but N’Golo Kante and Willian could feature.
Key Facts To Consider
- Manchester United have the far better all-time head-to-head record (W78, D51, L54)
- The Red Devils have not lost on the opening weekend since the 2014/15 season
- The last match between the two ended 1-1 in April
- Chelsea have not won at Old Trafford since May 2013
- Manchester United spent approximately £150m throughout the summer, whilst Chelsea were unable to bring in any signings
Despite this match being extremely early in the season, it will surely be an important game in the race for the Premier League top-four. Both sides have had turbulent summers and a victory could set the tone for a successful summer. However, both sides are now extremely limited in attacking positions so it could be a tight result that might go in Manchester United’s favour considering their form at Old Trafford.
Prediction: Manchester United to Win 1-0
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