This weekend sees Jose Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, but it’s also a huge test for Antonio Conte. Having lost their two big games this season, how will his side get on against Manchester United? We expect another 3-4-3 formation, and this will be a huge test for the Blues’ new set up.
Of course, you’ll hear little about this game without Mourinho’s name being mentioned. Just 10 months on from his second sacking, the Portuguese takes Manchester United back to Stamford Bridge. Conte has already asked the fans to respect the returning manager, but you can bet there will be many who aren’t pleased with his move to Old Trafford.
Outside of that, there are some talking points in this game. Manchester United’s mixed start to the season sees them way off where they expected to be. They were tipped as title challengers, but they find themselves well off the pace in that regard. Having drawn 0-0 at Liverpool earlier this week, they can’t afford to slip up at the Bridge.
There are already plenty of sides who are ahead of these two in the title race. Gone are the days where the Premier League title was a straight fight between the Blues and the Red Devils. The way Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham have started, these two teams face a tough road just to get into the top four.
While this fixture isn’t the title decider it once was, it could define Conte’s time here. He can’t afford to lose a third huge game in just over a month. Since defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, the Italian has made the switch to a 3-4-3 formation. That’s worked so far, but will it survive the scrutiny of Mourinho’s United?
The Red Devils aren’t a typical Mourinho team, he can’t really mould them as challenges come and go. He’s basically stuck with what he’s got, They’ve got a similar approach and set up for each game. We can’t see him doing too much differently to counter the Blues.
You’d imagine Victor Moses will have a point to prove here. Mourinho dispensed with him as soon as he arrived at the club in 2013. The Nigerian spent every season on loan when the manager was here, but recent games have seen him thrive in a right wing back role. He’ll be aiming to maintain the strong form he’s shown in the last two games.
One thing we could see here is the return of Kurt Zouma. The central defender picked up an injury in this fixture back in February. He’s closing in on a return, and he could appear here. The Frenchman has a lot of competition, with Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill starting ahead of John Terry last time out.
The Blues need a big display here to erase the awful performances they put in against Liverpool and Arsenal. We should know more about the formation change once this one gets going, and we’ll get a clearer picture of Conte’s pecking order at centre-half.
LCN verdict: 1-1 draw