In what promises to be the blockbuster Premier League match of this weekend, Manchester United will host Chelsea at Old Trafford.
The two sides finished third and fourth respectively last season, a campaign in which they faced each other four times. United won the first three instances but Chelsea had the last laugh in the FA Cup semi-final, triumphing 3-1 at Wembley.
Now they meet for the first time this season looking to renew hostilities. Chelsea have been lifted by the literally hundreds of millions spent, while United are still relying on the good vibes generated by their homegrown talent as well as last season’s big imports like Bruno Fernandes.
What will happen when these two heavyweights of the English game go head-to-head? We had a look and came up with five predictions:
Manchester United vs. Chelsea match outcome odds (via William Hill):
- Man Utd: 29/20
- Draw: 13/5
- Chelsea: 7/4
*You have to be 18+ to gamble. All odds and offers within this article are accurate at the time of publication (16:00 – 22/10/2020). BeGambleAware.
1. Manchester United will line up like…
The Red Devils will bring out the ‘Big Game Ballista’ once again for the match against Chelsea. They used the formation to fantastic effect in Paris, neutralising the Parisian’s terrifying front three, and should look to do the same against Chelsea’s high-powered attack.
In fact, it’s unlikely that there will be more than one change to the XI that started in Paris. They all performed so well it would be absurd to drop them, but Paul Pogba is too big of a name and personality to leave out two games running. Moreover, having only come off the bench he will be nice and rested to run riot against Chelsea. Not to mention the last time Pogba was left out against Chelsea, United lost 3-1.
(3-5-2) De Gea; Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Shaw; AWB, McT, Pogba, Telles; Bruno; Martial, Rashford
So Pogba comes in for Fred, with Scott McTominay retaining his place because his destructive capabilities will help contain the threat of Chelsea’s playmakers. The rest of the team is as it was (yes, even Luke Shaw). It seems that left centre-back in a defensive trio is the one role that Shaw can still play to a high level, although quite how he deals with Chelsea’s incursions into that space will be worth watching.
2. Chelsea will line up like…
Frank Lampard can be hard to predict as a coach because he often changes his side’s tactical shape multiple times in one game. This is always done with an air of trying something for the sake of trying something, as Lampard doesn’t seem committed to any one footballing idea beyond “make team play good, win games.”
Still, with all his attacking powerhouses now fit, the shape of the team dictates itself. A 4-2-3-1 where Werner plays in attack ahead of a band of Hakim Ziyech, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic. A £203.5m strike force that would strike fear into any side.
(4-2-3-1) Mendy; James, Silva, Zouma, Chilwell; Jorginho, Kante; Ziyech, Havertz, Pulisic; Werner
Behind them Jorginho and N’Golo Kanté hold midfield while Thiago Silva and Kurt Zouma retain their places from the midweek draw with Sevilla. Ben Chilwell plays left-back and Edouard Mendy is in goal.
The one conundrum Lampard faces is whether to start Reece James or Cesar Azpilicueta. If the Englishman plays, Chelsea will have more verve in attack but Azpilicueta will make them more solid as a unit thanks to his leadership. And given that United primarily attack down Chelsea’s right, this decision could decide the outcome of the game. And knowing Lampard, he will likely opt for James in the hope of dominating United in attack.
3. Rashford to score
Marcus Rashford MBE is on fire right now. The Englishman has two goals in two games since returning from international football (and three in his last four games taking England appearances into account). And he should have scored even more. His movement has been so good that he’s been in positions to at least double his tally.
And now he’s coming up against a Chelsea side that are far from solid at the back, a Chelsea side that has already shipped three goals on two separate occasions this season, a Chelsea team that are in fact Rashford’s favourite opponent, with five goals against them being his best scoring record of all the clubs he’s faced. All that adds up to say that Rashford is likely to find the net.
4. Ziyech’s hour of power
Hakim Ziyech is a truly special talent, albeit one that Chelsea haven’t been able to fully unleash yet. The absurdly creative winger has thus far been restricted to cameos off the bench as he works his way back from injury, but United at Old Trafford is the perfect stage for him to make his first-ever start for the Blues.
And when he does, it will be phenomenal. The sheer volume of creativity will be explosive and completely set the tone for the first hour or so of the match. Chelsea will keep looking to Ziyech, and he will keep confounding his markers and creating danger. Whether or not Chelsea take the chances he creates is up for debate, but he will create chances.
However because he’s not at full fitness yet, he’s only likely to last an hour before needing to be substituted. So we’ll get a glorious hour of Ziyech, but then nothing at all.
5. Manchester United to win
That hour of Ziyech dominance will set the tone for the match, with Chelsea launching attacks at a Manchester United rear-guard and the Red Devils counter-attacking into spaces with their ‘Big Game Ballista’ formation.
Chelsea will undoubtedly seem superior but as long as United retain the ability to break at speed, it will be an even contest and not unlike most of the battles between the two clubs last season (which, remember, United won three of four).
United are comfortable on the counter and, if or when Ziyech does go, can make changes of their own to retake the thrust of the game, just as they did in Paris. In such an event, on comes Donny van de Beek. Or perhaps Mason Greenwood. Or maybe even a debut for Edinson Cavani. Either way, this is when they take control of those final moments, just as they did in Paris.
Whether they win it early or win it late, there’s too much swinging Manchester United’s way to see anything but them beating Chelsea on Saturday night. They’ve got the perfect set-up to counter Chelsea’s tactical set-up and the men in form to do it.