Chelsea will welcome Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in what is the pick of the upcoming round of fixtures. The high-flying Blues who are sitting at the very top of the table will meet the Red Devils who are struggling in eighth, after having a horrible start to the season.
Thomas Tuchel’s men are currently three points clear at the top of the league standings with a tally of 29 points from 12 games, and will be fresh off a 4-0 win over Juventus in their mid-week Champions League outing. While the Blues are in the middle of a purple patch, the same can not be said about their weekend’s opponents – the Red Devils’ less-than-impressive start to the season culminated in their head coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer getting the sack earlier this week.
Manchester United’s 4-1 defeat to Watford last weekend was the last nail in the coffin for Solskjaer, who was relieved of his duties soon after. The Red Devils will have his assistant Michael Carrick on the touchline at the Bridge, filling in for new interim manager Ralf Rangnick who is reported to be taking up the reins until the end of the season. This weekend’s outing in West London pits the Manchester outfit against the league leaders as they will be willing to cover up lost ground, already sitting seven places and 12 points behind the European champions.
As for Chelsea, their last Premier League outing ended in an impressive 3-0 win against Leicester City – with goals from Antonio Rüdiger, N’Golo Kanté and Christian Pulisic helping the Blues stay on top of the ladder. Even though the hosts are the clear favourites going into the fixture according to recent form, recent history favours the visitors as Chelsea have not defeated Man Utd in the league since 2017. The Blues are also winless in their last seven league games against the Red Devils, and they will be looking to break that streak this coming weekend.
WHEN AND WHERE?
Date: Sunday, 28th November 2021.
Time: 4:30 pm (UK).
Venue: Stamford Bridge, London.
Referee: Anthony Taylor.
Assistant Referees: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn.
Fourth Official: David Coote.
VAR: Chris Cavanagh, Dan Robathan.
The hosts have a number of injury concerns heading into the weekend’s fixture, the most recent of which is Ben Chilwell. The English full-back went off injured in the mid-week outing, amidst fears of a potential ACL injury that can rule him out for the rest of the season. Mateo Kovacic also remains unavailable due to a hamstring injury, while N’Golo Kanté will also miss out with a knee injury. Kai Havertz is a doubt to face United, while even though Romelu Lukaku is back in training – it remains to be seen whether he is fit enough for a start.
As for the visitors, Harry Maguire is suspended after being sent off in their last league outing. The trio of Edinson Cavani, Fred, and Luke Shaw are all doubtful for the weekend’s outing with respective injuries, while Mason Greenwood’s positive COVID-19 test results also rule him out against Chelsea. Paul Pogba continues to struggle with a thigh injury, while his compatriot Raphaël Varane’s hamstring trouble also rules him out of a start against the league leaders.
The pick of the fixtures at the weekend pits a strong Chelsea side who have excelled at both defending and attacking this season against a United side who have struggled in both aspects of the game. While Chelsea have scored the second-most goals in the league and conceded the least – Man Utd have let in far more goals than they would have liked to, while also not being able to score as many. The fact that Chelsea have only conceded once from open play in the league this season makes the task much harder for United, as they would have to break the hosts’ water-tight defense down to its bare bones to get anything from the game. Even if United do manage to breach the Blues’ backline, they would have to keep them from scoring as well – a task that not many teams have managed to do, as Chelsea have only failed to score in one of their 12 league games so far this season. There are chances that Michael Carrick replicates the Blues’ three-man backline to match their formation, hence making the battles between the wing-backs and the midfield tussles all-important in determining the outcome of the contest.
In the absence of Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kanté, it will likely be Ruben Loftus-Cheek to start alongside Jorginho in the heart of the Blues’ midfield. Loftus-Cheek has had an impressive season so far, despite not many giving him a chance to reinstate himself back in the Chelsea team after almost two years out. But the 25-year-old stuck to his guns and impressed Thomas Tuchel who offered him a clean slate this past summer, and it has worked like a dream for the Englishman. Loftus-Cheek has added an extra dimension to the Blues midfield every time he has played this season, with his dribbling, ball retention, and long drives into the final third moving to be impactful. After coming off the bench against Juventus in mid-week, Loftus-Cheek gave a good account of his starting credentials and effectively created the third goal by dribbling past the Bianconeri defense to lay it off for Callum Hudson-Odoi – and the Blues will be hoping that he keeps up his touch of form to dominate the midfield on Sunday.
As for the visitors, there is only one man who is considered key to what Man Utd can get from the game. Their Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo has been one of the only sparks of what has been a very dull season for the Manchester-based outfit, as it has been his heroics in the Champions League that has helped United progress into the Round of 16. In order to breach the Blues’ water-tight defense, the United forwards will have to be at the top of their game – and Ronaldo having not scored in 14 league games against Chelsea has to break his duck at the weekend. A first league goal against Chelsea will boost the Red Devils’ chances of getting anything from the game, and turning their dire situation around ahead of the interim manager’s arrival next week. Ronaldo will aim to become only the third player in the league this season to score at Stamford Bridge, and extend his tally of four goals in the league so far.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Mendy; Azpilicueta, Silva, Rüdiger; James, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek, Alonso; Mount, Werner, Hudson-Odoi.
Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Bailly, Telles; Matic, McTominay; Sancho, Fernandes, Rashford; Ronaldo.