Can Chelsea claim three points in their return to Premier League action on Sunday? The Blues are bound for Old Trafford this weekend, as they look to dent Jose Mourinho and Manchester United’s push for the Champions League. Despite adding Alexis Sanchez to the side, the Red Devils have struggled in the league of late, losing back to back away games. The last thing they need after a couple of setbacks is to welcome the champions to Manchester. With just three points between these two sides heading into this clash, it could have a huge bearing on this season’s top four race.
Of course, this weekend does represent something of a missed opportunity for the champions. They could well have been lining up at Wembley this weekend, having lost out to Arsenal in the EFL Cup semi-finals. The Blues will be on their way back from Manchester as the first silverware of the season is contested, so it would be a pretty demoralising trip south should they lose to Mourinho’s men. Can Antonio Conte and his team avoid that fate by securing all three points against their top four rivals on Sunday?
Team News: Will Conte Push for a Five Man Midfield?
The big question heading into this game is over the system Antonio Conte decides to go with. The 3-4-3 has been relatively unchanged in recent weeks, but the Italian has moved to a 3-5-2 in big games this season, in order to control the midfield. They’re likely to come up against five United midfielders in this one, so a change could be necessary. The system also helped the Blues claim a 1-0 win at home to United in the reverse fixture, and now that Conte has enough bodies in midfield to play with a five across the middle, he could be tempted to make a change ahead of this crucial clash.
Much of the week’s discussion has been about Mourinho’s relationship with Paul Pogba. The Portuguese doesn’t seem all that keen on the club’s record signing, and he’s not hit the heights expected given his enormous transfer fee. The midfielder should play a part in this game, but for Mourinho to make him effective he needs to tweak his approach. The signing of Sanchez seems to have impacted their setup, which is now a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Pogba alongside former Chelsea man Nemanja Matic in central midfield. That’s likely to be the duo once again on Sunday, which is at least a powerful double act, if nothing else.
Manchester United Form
Two defeats from their last three league games have left United much closer to the top four battle than to leaders Man City. The Red Devils trail City by 16 points, although they do have a chance to close that gap temporarily this weekend. Fifth placed Tottenham went into the weekend just four points behind Man United, with the remaining three Champions League spots seemingly being contested by the four sides sandwiched between City and Arsenal.
United do have a good record behind them at home, unbeaten against all of the sides below them in the standings. They lost to City at Old Trafford, but aside from that they have 10 wins from 12 matches, which has seen them average 2.46 points per game. That has given them the second best home record in the division, so Chelsea have their work cut out in this weekend’s clash against a side that has scored more freely on home soil.
Manchester United v Chelsea Head to Head
Chelsea have been hosting Man United pretty regularly of late, which has seen them claim three wins from their last five encounters. Their recent record at Old Trafford hasn’t been too bad, losing just one of their last five trips to Old Trafford. However, that defeat came in their visit to Manchester last April, which brought a rare loss for Conte on the way to the league title.
- Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, Nov 2017
- Manchester United 2-0 Chelsea, Apr 2017
- Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, Mar 2017
- Chelsea 4-0 Manchester United, Oct 2016
- Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United, Feb 2016
- Under 2.5 Goals – 7/10 with Ladbrokes
- Draw – 12/5 with BetVictor
Man United’s strong home form obviously makes them favourites for Sunday’s clash, and they’ve been priced up at 11/10 with Betfair to take the points. Meanwhile, the Blues are out at 11/4 with Betfred for a victory at Old Trafford. You can back the draw at 12/5 here, with these two sides looking quite even going into this weekend. Can the Blues pull off a victory, or will they be left outside of the top four and reeling from yet another blow to Conte’s position as manager?
While Chelsea have seen their fair share of high scoring away trips this term, we expect a different kind of game this weekend. These two managers may have a deep dislike for one another, but they come into this clash knowing that a safety first policy is probably the best way to go. We’ve all see how Mourinho sets up for big games, and if Conte goes for a midfield five once again then we’re likely to see a very cagey game played out between these two once again.
Only one of the last six meetings between these two have seen both teams score, while the last five meetings at Old Trafford have seen under 2.5 goals. Given how these two managers are likely to approach this game, we can see another low scoring affair on Sunday. We’re backing under 2.5 at 7/10 with Ladbrokes here. With four draws between the two at Old Trafford since 2013, we’re also going for this one to finish level, which is available at 12/5 with BetVictor. With a close game very likely, that seems like a great price.