Two juggernauts of Premier League football in Manchester United and Chelsea go head to head in this intriguing encounter, both sides looking to put an end to their early season defensive frailties.
Here’s all you need to know about Saturday’s clash at Old Trafford:
Manchester United: LWLW
It’s been a stuttering start to the 2020/21 campaign for United, with two defeats and two wins from their four Premier League fixtures a somewhat underwhelming return for a side many thought could potentially close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool this season.
That erratic form has already left United scrambling for points, as in this crazy opening to the season a number of sides now look capable of challenging, with Everton and Aston Villa currently occupying first and second in the league, respectively. City, Liverpool and United have all been hit for 5+ goals in a fixture, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men suffered a harrowing 6-1 defeat to Tottenham before the international break that saw last season’s defensive solidity thrown out the window after some erratic defending from Harry Maguire and company.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, the last week has seen an upturn in fortunes after a late 4-1 thumping of Newcastle away from home was followed by an excellent showing against last season’s Champions League finalists PSG on Wednesday evening, United grabbing a well-earned 2-1 win courtesy of a late Marcus Rashford effort despite some notable absentees.
That midweek display saw young central defender Axel Tuanzebe put in an assured performance despite not having featured for the club since last December and could well have put himself in contention for Saturday with Eric Bailly unavailable and captain Maguire a potential doubt.
United will once again be without Anthony Martial following his red card against Spurs, although deadline day arrival Edinson Cavani could be set to feature if he is able to prove his fitness. Mason Greenwood has been out with a niggle but should be in contention for the visit of the Blues.
Chelsea’s failure to properly bolster their defensive ranks is already looking like an expensive mistake as their early season form has seen them ship goals left, right and centre. Despite the arrivals of the experienced Thiago Silva and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, the Blues do appear to be lacking in quality in the centre of defence and their fragile backline often receives next to no protection from their midfield.
That leaky backline has already seen Frank Lampard’s side concede three goals against both West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, the latter side coming from behind to snatch a last-gasp equaliser at Stamford Bridge at the weekend. Ironically, that match appeared to finally see Lampard’s attacking unit click into gear with Timo Werner grabbing a delightful brace as well as laying on an assist for fellow German Kai Havertz.
As yet, the Blues appear to be unable to combine a solid defence with a scintillating attack for a full 90 minutes, with their midweek Champions League tie seeing them look defensively solid against Sevilla yet lacking in the final third.
What is clear however is that with the likes of Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic now available to add to Havertz, Werner and Mason Mount there is plenty of exciting attacking talent at Lampard’s disposal to hurt an equally as vulnerable United defence.
As for injuries, Lampard should have a relatively full complement of players to choose from with only young Billy Gilmour a long-term absentee.
Last Meeting – Manchester United 1-3 Chelsea, FA Cup, 19 July 2020
While United claimed three victories over their rivals last season, the last meeting of the two sides saw Chelsea emerge as victors after an excellent display put Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to the sword.
With Solskjaer resting a number of key men in order to prioritise securing a top four finish United never really got going as the Blues fluid attack and relentless wing-back’s suffocate United’s play. That excellent performance was rewarded late in the first-half as Olivier Giroud nipped in ahead of Victor Lindelof to slot through the legs of David De Gea.
The London club extended their lead almost immediately after half-time courtesy of a woeful De Gea blunder that saw Mason Mount’s long range effort squirm past the Spaniard. A Harry Maguire own goal with just 15 minutes remaining ultimately sealed the win, with a customary Bruno Fernandes penalty merely a consolation late on.
Lampard’s men would go on to lose in the final to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, while United would enjoy some revenge by finishing above their opponents in the Premier League.
Manchester United: De Gea; Wan-Bisakka, Tuanzebe, Lindelof, Shaw, Telles; McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes; James, Rashford.
Chelsea: Mendy; James, Silva, Zouma, Chilwell; Kante, Jorginho; Pulisic, Havertz, Ziyech; Werner.
Who is the referee?
How can I watch?
UK and Irish readers can watch the game on Sky Sports Main Event.
What time is kick off?
Manchester United 7/5