To say the last few weeks at Old Trafford have been dramatic would be the understatement of the century. We’ve had embarrassing defeats, more and more supposedly unhappy players, a manager under fire and a classic comeback. And now, this Saturday, all roads lead to Stamford Bridge.
United have struggled massively at the Bridge in recent years, with their last win coming in the title winning 2012-13 campaign, a 3-2 triumph thanks to goals from Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez. We’ve had our fair share of points dropped late (and the odd heavy defeat here and there) since our last win at Chelsea, but could those blues finally come to an end this Saturday?
The squad have to take massive confidence from the last result. Sure, going 2-0 down within 10 minutes at home to Newcastle isn’t fantastic (it’s shockingly quite the opposite), but the way the team came back was commendable. Paul Pogba was instrumental in his quarterback-esque role, Juan Mata linked defence to attack like only he can for this team, and Anthony Martial looked hungry once again. Not to mention more David de Gea heroics keeping us in the game to begin with.
There were some lacklustre performances of course. Both Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford were off the boil in front of goal, but hopefully their good performances during the international break will help their showings at club level.
Then there was Eric Bailly. This was genuinely horrible to watch, given the talent United fans know the Ivorian possesses. He hasn’t been at it for a while however, and his 20 minute stint against Newcastle could signal the beginning of the end for his United career. I really do hope that isn’t the case, but only lasting 19 minutes was a damning verdict on just how poor Bailly was.
Now, back onto the matter at hand. Chelsea are one of the three teams who still boast an unbeaten record in the Premier League so far this season, with six wins and two draws from their eight games so far.
The star man is obviously Eden Hazard. The Belgian has kept up his rich vein of form that was on show at the World Cup, bagging seven goals so far this season, making him the league’s top scorer.
However, Maurizio Sarri deserves a lot of plaudits for getting the best out of Ross Barkley. After the midfielder joined Chelsea from Everton in January, he was almost immediately cast to the side, and was clearly not an Antonio Conte approved signing. Despite this, Sarri has put his faith in Barkley this season as one of his midfield three (interchanging occasionally with Mateo Kovacic) and the England man has repaid his manager by putting in some good performances and getting his first goal for the club last time out away at Southampton.
I really want to be positive here. With such a good comeback in the last fixture, I really want to say United will win here, but against a team they always struggle against away from home who are playing this well at the moment, it’s hard to see anything other than a draw at best.
I do think United will score, as the centre back partnership of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger is still far from convincing, but with the likes of Hazard, Olivier Giroud and Willian attacking our sub-par defence, I’m going for a 2-2 draw at the Bridge.
Predicted Man United Line-Up: De Gea; Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Fellaini, Pogba, Mata; Martial, Lukaku, Alexis.
Predicted Chelsea Line-Up: Arrizabalaga; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Kante, Barkley, Jorginho; Willian, Giroud, Hazard.