Manchester United vs Chelsea: The Game Of The Week Preview

Manchester United vs Chelsea Preview

Statistics mean nothing to me in football, especially not in the Barclays Premier League. Week after week after week it seems like the same phrase can be repeated while still holding very strong validity: the Premier League is the most unpredictable football league in the world. That’s the beauty of it though; a home fixture to Sunderland can be just as tricky as an away fixture with Manchester City. If you can count on the Prem for one thing and one thing only, it’s that it is the most consistently inconsistent league in all of football, and that is what makes it the most exciting.

Louis Van Gaal
Louis Van Gaal

Sunday throws out one of my favourite games of the year: Manchester United vs. Chelsea. I love and hate this tie because, as a Chelsea fan, beating or losing to Man United has usually been the difference between winning and losing the Premier League title. For years Chelsea and Man United have fluctuated between first and second place, usually with Arsenal or Liverpool battling it out between third and fourth. Gone are those days, though. The ‘Big Four’ as they were so illustriously known, so impenetrable that they were, have fallen, making way for ‘noisy neighbours’ Man City, Everton, and Tottenham in a ‘Big Seven’ as it were. Manchester United, however, barely scraped their way into this elite core of English powerhouses, in a season that Red Devils fans would have already forgotten. So I’m glad I could remind them!

To business now: Man United vs. Chelsea. A mouth-watering fixture that pits together two teams who love to hate each other. Predictions can be tossed out the window because when these two teams go at it, there’s no telling who will come away with all three points. Below are a few major talking points for Sunday’s game of the week, including what it will take for either team to come out on top.

This is a game that will be won and lost on the wings

Eden Hazard; Ángel Di María. Nothing simpler than that. In my opinion, these two aforementioned superstars have been the standout performers of late for Chelsea and Man United respectively. In fact, Di María, save for perhaps Wayne Rooney and David de Gea, has been the only player to truly threaten any kind of ruthless attacking football that Man United has been known and feared for during the past, oh, say the entire Premier League history. And there can be no denying that Hazard is becoming one of the world’s best right before our eyes; with every time he gets the ball at his feet he looks like taking another one of his slalom runs past any defender you’d like to throw at him – just ask Laurent Koscielny how much he enjoyed dealing with the Belgian. Hazard is quick, agile, and calm when it comes to slotting the ball home, and with Diego Costa as a doubt for the clash, the onus will be on him to hit United’s defence where it hurts.

A striking dilemma

Speaking of Diego Costa, Chelsea has on their hands one of the worst situations that could have been dreamt up at the beginning of the season. Within the span of a week and a half the Blues went from having three formidable strikers at their disposal to being reduced to one, who may or may not be fit in time. Diego Costa seems to have been nursing his hamstring for quite some time now, albeit bagging nine goals in the process, so he is likely a doubt. Loïc Rémy took the reigns in midweek in the Champions League, scored a goal, then quickly walked off with a groin injury, so, again, he is likely a doubt. Didier Drogba took to the field in the Frenchman’s stead, and, after scoring a penalty in front of his loyal Stamford Bridge crowd, has all but been ruled out with remnants of an ankle injury. It’s unknown whether Drogba or Rémy, or perhaps even Costa could lead the line come Sunday, and that, perhaps, is the most unsettling part. De Gea has been in excellent form, and the Blues will need to be at their best to get one, two, dare I say three, past him.

Defensive frailties in Red

It’s not a surprise that Man United have struggled this season at the back after letting Nemanja Vidić and Rio Ferdinand, long standing formidable central defensive partners, leave the club for Inter Milan and QPR respectively. Perhaps Ferdinand wasn’t the rock solid defender he used to be last season, but he still commanded the back four from a leadership perspective. As did Vidić, who United sorely, sorely miss this campaign. His stature and presence in United’s backline helped form one of the best defences in the Premier League, and ever since leaving, United has not been close to the same. Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are good defenders, don’t get me wrong, as are Luke Shaw and Rafael on the flanks, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is that these players have no chemistry together at the moment; perhaps they need more time, but time is wasting away and the season’s top runners are already miles ahead. If they can’t pull it together for Sunday’s clash, United will fall even further behind.

Honours even in the middle of the park, or is Fàbregas the cutting edge?

Chelsea Fabregas Costa
Fabregas

Between Ander Herrera and Cesc Fàbregas, a nicely poised midfield battle is shaping up for Sunday’s meeting. Of course so too is the match up between Nemanja Matić and new United signing Daley Blind, should he play in his preferred midfield role. Michael Carrick is available and will provide extra strength for the Red Devils, but I can only see another typical Fàbregas performance to steal the headlines. He, along with Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, have been consistently putting in top class games for Chelsea, and with Matić beginning to come into his own with some massive shows against Maribor and Crystal Palace, I can’t see United’s new boys putting up too much of a threat.

José Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal have great respect for one another, and in that regard I don’t think that we’ll be seeing any tactical box drama that we did when Arsenal came to the Bridge. The game promises to be one of the most exciting matches of the season. Forget league positions; they mean nothing when dealing with two of the most successful teams in English football. As I mentioned in the beginning, statistics mean nothing, and this is a game that you just cannot predict.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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