It’s big week for Manchester United in the Premier League. Fresh from their visit to Anfield and home game against Fenerbahce in the Europa League, United head to Stamford Bridge for Jose Mourinho’s first meeting with Chelsea as the boss of another Premier League side. Blues fans will welcome him as a hero but he will be keen to prove a point after being let go by Roman Abramovich for a second time after a poor start to the last saw his Blues side, champions from the previous season, slumped in 16th, just one point above the relegation zone and having endured a nightmare run of nine defeats in sixteen games. Mourinho’s final game in charge was a 2-1 defeat at Leicester, after which he accused several players of ‘betraying’ him. All in all, it adds up to a mouth-watering contest at the Bridge on Sunday.
Antonio Conte seems to be settling in to life in West London after a difficult spell last month saw his side endure a three game winless streak in the league which included defeats at home to Liverpool and away at Arsenal. Since then it’s been two wins and perhaps even more importantly two clean sheets for a defence that has looked porous at times, especially with captain John Terry’s aching limbs seemingly giving way. Diego Costa has been on fire after a difficult campaign last time out; the Spaniard has seven goals already to see him atop the scoring charts. With Eden Hazard another player finding his form after a nightmare 2015/16 and new (old) signing David Luiz settling in well along with another new face in Marcos Alonso, October is dispelling much of the negativity brought about by a difficult September.
Similarly to Conte, Jose Mourinho has had a rather up and down beginning to life at his new club. United may currently sit seventh, but a closer examination of their form since August, when they won their first three Premier League games (against Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull City) reads only one win from five, albeit a comprehensive 4-1 win over champions Leicester, who have been terrible away from home. An unconvincing win over Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, uninspiring European form (one win and one defeat in the Europa League) and question marks over the form (Pogba) and place/position (Rooney) of key players adds up to a rather large headache for Mourinho, who undoubtedly has not yet found his strongest team at Old Trafford. However, a win in London and United would climb above their hosts, and so at this early stage of the season fortunes can turn around quickly, exactly as has already happened for Mourinho after his overwhelmingly positive start (similar to Pep Guardiola at neighbours Manchester City).
Head-to-head and team news
This has always been an intense affair down the years but it is Manchester United who lead the head-to-head with 75 wins to Chelsea’s 50, with 49 draws. Last season’s games resulted in two draws, 0-0 at Old Trafford and 1-1 at the Bridge, with Jese Lingard putting the visitors ahead but Diego Costa equalising in the 90th minute. Chelsea are unbeaten in ten against the Red Devils across all competitions, winning five of those encounters. United’s last win was a 3-2 victory in London in October 2012 – United’s Juan Mata was on the scoresheet for the Blues that day.
United of course had a Europa League match to contend with on Thursday night so Mourinho will be assessing the readiness of his troops after that game, but no new injuries have been reported. For the home side, both Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic are in contention after minor knocks, while Kurt Zouma nears a return after eight months out with an ACL injury.
Chelsea V Manchester United, Sunday 23/10/16 at 16.00 GMT
Chelsea 2.15, Draw 3.40, Manchester United 3.80
All odds courtesy of bet365 and correct as of 09.00 GMT on 21/10/16
By: Steve Paget