Chelsea and Manchester United could both do with taking all three points when they meet at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (16:30 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
Chelsea come into the match on the back of a humbling 0-3 defeat away to Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday. While they will still qualify from the group, it was a worrying display and one that saw Antonio Conte openly criticise his players for a lack of fight and determination in its aftermath.
Roma’s third goal featured the comical sight of three Chelsea defenders all being drawn to Edin Dzeko, who swivelled past them seemingly in slow motion and played in Diego Perotti to add further shame to the scoreline.
It was the latest setback in what has not exactly been the smoothest of starts to the season for the 2016-17 Premier League champions.
Chelsea’s league-title success was built around a core of regular starters in a relatively small squad. Summer recruitment enlarged the group to cope with the additional strain of European competition but it is questionable whether enough quality was brought in to allow the club to compete evenly on all fronts. Some of last season’s mainstays are being pressed into consistent service in both competitions, while others are playing through knocks.
Chelsea also lost a couple of regular starters from last season in Nemanja Matic and Diego Costa. Their respective replacements Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata are good players but don’t quite fit the same profiles. Add injuries and Conte’s experimentations with variations on last season’s all-conquering 3-4-3 formation and everything just feels a bit disjointed for the Blues right now.
Man Utd were the beneficiaries when Matic departed Stamford Bridge this summer to link up with his former Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford. The Serbian international slotted straight into the starting XI and has been one of the key men in the club’s improvement this season. Strong on both sides of the ball, he sets the tone in midfield.
Mourinho has overseen United’s best start to a season since they last won the league title, in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final campaign, back in the 2012-13 season. Matic and fellow new signing Romelu Lukaku have both made an instant impact and the early weeks of the season saw them wrack up a series of high-scoring victories. They also bounced back from a poor defeat at Huddersfield with victory at home to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.
[quote style=”boxed” float=”right”]Man Utd were the beneficiaries when Matic departed Stamford Bridge this summer[/quote]
United sit second in the table but have been unable to keep pace with the blistering start made by their local rivals Manchester City, who are currently five points clear at the top. While they have improved, they are only actually three points up on their haul from the equivalent fixtures against the same opponents last season. City finished nine points ahead of United last time out and are nine points better off by that yardstick this time around.
It will therefore be a tough ask for Mourinho to keep up his record of winning the league title in the second season at each of the four clubs (five titles due to his two spells at Chelsea) he has led into a second campaign during his career to date. If Man City beat Arsenal in an earlier kickoff on Sunday, anything less than a victory for United at Chelsea would leave a gap of seven points or more – a difference that would look daunting even at this early stage.
Mourinho’s approach to matches against other top-of-the-table sides very rarely changes. United’s recent 0-0 draw away to Liverpool and last weekend’s 1-0 win at home to Tottenham Hotspur showed that maintaining defensive solidity remains his primary concern. But it will be difficult for him to justify that on Sunday given City’s form. Chelsea, too, feel like they need a win in a big match like this to get their season going.
So while it is unlikely to be an open, end-to-end affair, both teams will have to show a bit more attacking conviction than they might otherwise have done under different circumstances. Man Utd look the better organised side so far this season and that may very well be enough to carry them over the line to a narrow victory on Sunday.
Our Preview’s Chelsea v Man Utd Betting Tips Verdict
Having checked out all the odds from the main online sports betting sites, these are our preview’s advised tips:
- Bet on Manchester United to win on the ‘draw no bet’ market @ 15/13 with Unibet.
- Back two or three goals on the exact total goals market @ best odds of 11/10 with BetVictor.
Chelsea v Man Utd Match Winner Odds Comparison