A battle for fourth in the Premier League gets underway on Saturday night as Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge (5.30pm kick-off, UK time).
The Blues remain unbeaten under Graham Potter, winning their opening three Premier League games before coming unstuck in a goalless stalemate against west London rivals Brentford on Wednesday night. The Red Devils also appear on an upward trajectory under Erik ten Hag, who has so far overseen wins against Liverpool, Arsenal and most recently Tottenham.
There is just a place and a point currently separating these two heavyweights in fourth and fifth, making this a proverbial six-pointer in the race for Champions League football.
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Chelsea v Man Utd betting acca tips
The Premier League table is really starting to take shape, with five of the so-called ‘Big Six’ seemingly where they should be, while Liverpool can leapfrog Newcastle into sixth if they capitalise on their game in hand. Chelsea and Man Utd, after early-season wobbles, are now knocking on the top-four door.
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Chelsea team news
Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech were both fit enough to make the bench for Wednesday’s stalemate against Brentford, and the former may be parachuted into the XI on Saturday. Wesley Fofana, Reece James and N’Golo Kante, though, all remain sidelined indefinitely. Conor Gallagher was withdrawn after only a quarter-of-an-hour against Brentford, but Potter revealed in the aftermath that his substitution was only a precaution due to illness.
Man Utd team news
Harry Maguire and Anthony Martial both face late fitness tests for this showdown, but Ten Hag is unlikely to mess with a winning formula after his side put Spurs to the sword in a 2-0 win on Wednesday evening. Although Man Utd secured three points against one of their top-four rivals, the back pages were dominated by images depicting Cristiano Ronaldo trudging down the Old Trafford tunnel before the full-time whistle.
The Portuguese was an unused substitute in the win over Spurs, and there are even suggestions he left, not only the touchline before referee Simon Hooper sounded his whistle, but also the stadium. When asked by reporters about the Ronaldo situation, Ten Hag responded: “I don’t pay attention to that, I will deal with that tomorrow. I want to keep the focus on the team.”
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Former Man Utd goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel also gave his views on Ronaldo’s actions, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “I really like Cristiano, I think he’s a fantastic player and he’s been a fantastic player wherever he’s been and I think he’s still got a really big job to do for us.
“Leaving like that creates everything we don’t want at the moment – he would have known it would create headlines. And it’s the first time I can say I am disappointed in him.
“We’ve got Erik Ten Hag in now and he’s got very clear ideas about football, so we’re in transition and we need understanding and time from everyone because there’s going to be mishaps along the way. So we don’t need distractions like that.”
This is not the first time Ronaldo has left a Man Utd game early. During the club’s pre-season friendly against Rayo Vallecano, the Portuguese superstar departed Old Trafford at half-time after being substituted off.
Not even waited for the final whistle 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/jraOWdoPd5
— Gaz (@CantonaManc) July 31, 2022
Some have defended Ronaldo, though, with former team-mate Patrice Evra telling Amazon Prime during his punditry work: “I would have to start [Ronaldo]. One interview from Ten Hag after the game against Manchester City and why he didn’t bring him on was because he respected his character. If he respected his character, he would surely have to play him and play him every time.”
Following his actions in midweek, Man Utd issued a club statement in which they confirmed Ronaldo has been dropped for the weekend’s crucial Premier League six-pointer against Chelsea. The statement read: “Cristiano will not be part of the Manchester United squad for this Saturday’s game against Chelsea. The rest of the squad is fully focused on preparing for that fixture.”
In response to his punishment and the ongoing saga, the Portuguese superstar took to social media to try and placate the inferno of discontent. He posted on his Instagram: “As I’ve always done throughout my career, I try to live and play respectfully towards my colleagues, my adversaries and my coaches. That hasn’t changed. I haven’t changed. I’m the same person and the same professional that I’ve been for the last 20 years playing elite football, and respect has always played a very important role in my decision making process.
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“I started very young, the older and most experienced players examples were always very important to me. Therefore, later on, I’ve always tried to set the example myself for the youngsters that grew in all the teams that I’ve represented. Unfortunately that’s not always possible and sometimes the heat of the moment get’s the best of us.
“Right now, I just feel that I have to keep working hard in Carrington, support my teammates and be ready for everything in any given game. Giving in to the pressure is not an option. It never was.
“This is Manchester United, and united we must stand. Soon we’ll be together again.”