Chelsea vs Man Utd: Unbeaten Tuchel set for his biggest test yet đź’Ş

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Lewis Ambrose

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A month in charge of Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel can have very little to complain about.

Following in the footsteps of a man as loved as Frank Lampard couldn’t have been easy, and Tuchel himself would have preferred more time on the training ground rather than the hectic schedule he walked into.

The German had never taken over a team midway through the season before.

“Every coach in the world wants to have maybe four weeks with a new team to know their habits and characteristics,” he admitted after Chelsea overcame Barnsley in the FA Cup.

“Maybe the good thing was that we didn’t think about it because we didn’t have time to. It is beneficial we have had a lot of games because you get to know your players better.”

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It has certainly worked out well. After drawing 0-0 with Wolves the day after Tuchel took charge, the Blues have won six out of seven, conceding just twice, and beat Atlético Madrid in the Champions League in midweek. Only Manchester City have picked up more points in the Premier League and nobody has conceded fewer goals.

But this is where it gets tricky.

You see, Tuchel’s start to life at Stamford Bridge has gone well, but it’s also been very kind. Wins over Burnley, Tottenham (in their current state) and Sheffield United aren’t much to shout about. Last weekend saw Chelsea become the first team to drop any points to Southampton in the Saints’ last eight outings.

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The midweek defeat of Atlético Madrid was by far the most impressive so far but even that came against a side that has, uncharacteristically, now gone eight games without keeping a clean sheet.

Chelsea have played a 3-4-2-1 since Tuchel’s arrival, the extra centre-back providing cover on the break and combining with two ball-hungry midfielders to provide plenty of possession and control.

We haven’t seen them stretched too often, with Tuchel preferring to add solidity and security before getting more out of the club’s embarrassment of riches in the final third.

But Manchester United could change that.

The likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood will look to stretch the Blues’ backline, both across the pitch and by running in behind, while Bruno Fernandes will float around as he does, busily finding pockets of space to do damage from.

And United will be more than happy for Chelsea to have the ball, leaving them with space to break into wherever they win possession.

Make no mistake, this could be a defining match for both sides.

Since November 2017, United are unbeaten against Chelsea in the Premier League, recording three wins and three draws. But that record in big games that served them so well over the past couple of seasons has been threatened a bit.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men haven’t picked up many points in their biggest encounters so far this season (they’ve failed to beat any of Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester and Tottenham in the league so far) and that will need to change.

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Including Sunday, nine of United’s remaining 13 games come against teams currently sat in the top half. The same applies for Chelsea.

And both teams will be hoping to have long European runs to manage this campaign as well.

Sunday’s game could come to define their run-ins and decide if either side finishes in the top four this season.