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Starting XI: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

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An opening day rematch in the Carabao Cup

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League - Old Trafford Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images

Things are starting to look up for Manchester United. After turning heads with a 1-1 draw against Liverpool, the Reds have won back-to-back road games and now face another difficult one at Chelsea in the Carabao Cup. Here’s everything that you need to know ahead of the match.

(1) If the 1-0 win at Partizan Belgrade felt a bit lackluster, Sunday at Norwich City was far better. As Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad inches closer to full health, performances are improving all over the pitch. Even without Paul Pogba, this United side can ruthlessly exploit opponents that push too far forward — as shown at Norwich. What were the Canaries thinking?

(2) But it was still far from perfect. United squandered two penalty kicks, with both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stopped by Tim Krul in goal. The Reds continue to rack up penalty opportunities at an incredible pace, though their conversion rate leaves a lot to be desired.

(3) It took a penalty shootout win over League One Rochdale to secure a spot in the last sixteen of this competition. Mason Greenwood opened the scoring, before 16-year-old Luke Matheson leveled for the Dale just a few minutes later. As far as wins go, this was a poor one. United should brush aside League One also-rans at Old Trafford.

(4) Every week, the news gets worse about Paul Pogba. After Sunday’s 3-1 win at Norwich, Solskjaer delivered a very disappointing update on the midfielder:

I don’t think we’ll see Paul before December. He’ll be out for a while. He needs time to fully recover, so I don’t think he’ll be back [until] maybe Sheffield United after the international break. It will probably be December until we see him again. I am not the doctor, but there is an injury that needs healing. It’s his ankle, yes.

(5) Other than Pogba — and a few stragglers — the injury crisis appears to be all but over. Eric Bailly remains a long-term absentee, Diogo Dalot picked up a knock against Newcastle earlier this month, and Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matić are both out, too. Only Shaw and Pogba can be considered first-teamers from this group, so Ole’s finally got most of his top guys back.

(6) On the opening day of the Premier League season, Manchester United ran riot over Chelsea at Old Trafford. There’s not much reason to expect the same thing on Wednesday. The Blues are out for revenge and in far better form than in August — while United can’t really say the same.

(7) Chelsea have won seven in a row in all competitions, as they continue to improve under new manager Frank Lampard. This was about as tough a draw as United could get — although at least the Reds exorcised their away day hoodoo with wins over Partizan Belgrade and Norwich City.

(8) Several top Chelsea players — N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen, and Ross Barkley — missed the trip to Burnley at the weekend. But it didn’t matter. The Blues romped 4-2, rolling right through a tough Clarets side at Turf Moor.

(9) Will Lampard and Solskjaer go all in on the Carabao Cup and play strong teams on Wednesday? If so, United’s much-improved defense will have their hands full with Chelsea’s frontline. Up top, Tammy Abraham has been a revelation — scoring eight goals in ten Premier League matches. Mason Mount also has four goals and, at the weekend, Christian Pulisic joined the party with a natural hat trick at Burnley.

(10) If Lampard’s tactics on opening day were laughably naive — pushing players forward without the security blanket of Kante in midfield — they’ve come a long way in a short time. Until Sunday at Burnley, the Blue hadn’t allowed two goals in a match since losing to Liverpool in September. They also kept three clean sheets over that span.

(11) Stat of the week: Marcus Rashford scored his 50th goal for the club in Sunday’s win at Norwich. Not bad for a 21-year-old. Here’s hoping that he gets started on the next 50 against Chelsea on Wednesday.