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Looking Ahead: Chelsea

A look at this weekend’s matchup...

Manchester United v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

This match is very difficult to come up with predictions for.

For one, Chelsea are playing under a new manager than they started the season with, and that new manager has been fairly unpredictable so far. Graham Potter has had to sort through his squad a number of times game to game in his short time in charge, both for the sake of rotation and for injuries. What is clear is they are once again capable of scoring goals from multiple sources.

Mason Mount in particular is in good form again, and the attack seems to have settled in a bit with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang as the no. 9.

Stats here from Infogol show that despite the significant changes in personnel from match to match the side produced consistently against decent to good opposition. It should be noted however that the match against AC Milan featured an early red card for Fikayo Tomori, and the win against Palace needed a late stunner from Connor Gallagher.

Chelsea are far from perfect, but like United they’ve rebounded nicely from a difficult start to the season. They were leaking goals, and while their defense still shows some vulnerabilities. United will hope to exploit those on Saturday, after some promising performances of their own.

The way forward under ten Hag

Manchester United played a great game of football against Tottenham on Wednesday. The 2-0 win demonstrated the same promise of sustained attack that there were glimpses of in the three matches prior, but this time the finishing touch was there to get the goals.

United haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since February, 2020, and before that it was even longer in the league. It’s a difficult test for ten Hag, who was bested by Potter on opening day as Brighton got their first three points of the season. He’s got a much stronger squad now, but ten Hag has a much stronger idea.

With Cristiano Ronaldo out of the picture due to his childish walk out on Wednesday, there’s likely no threat of breaking up the front three that helped swamp Spurs. Marcus Rashford is not the ideal centre forward, failing to finish on a couple really good chances, but his confidence at the moment is undeniable, as is his ability to link up with Jadon Sancho and Antony. The wide players play such an important role in the build up, and if the striker doesn’t match the give and take they become isolated.

Additionally, Rashford’s presence has better utilized the strengths of Bruno Fernandes, who had a much needed good performance and goal in midweek. His ability to play the ball forward to forward making runs into dangerous areas was on display, as was his ability to make runs himself and get into goal scoring areas in and around the box.

The big question is whether or not United will have the ball enough to sustain their attacks. Chelsea have had around 60% possession in most of their games under Potter, with a notable exception being their first match against AC Milan. The Italian champions are probably the strongest opponent Chelsea have played since the new manager’s appointment, and even their equal possession of the ball did little against the Blues.

For United however, one of their strengths of late has been their work out of possession to limit their opponents. A significant chunk of their goals against in the league has come from total breakdowns against two opponents, Brentford and Manchester City. 10 of 15 goals against from two matches, and outside of that a lot of successful work in attempts to limit opposition and control matches. This was especially true against Spurs and Arsenal, the latter scoring a first half equalizer before being suffocated in the second half.

Against Spurs, we saw a very promising outing from Fred and Casemiro in midfield, and the former Real Madrid star in particular looked settled and back to his intimidating best as a midfield anchor. The back four was rarely in serious trouble dealing with the elite partnership of Kane and Son, and with a settled defensive screen in midfield finally they could be set up for a first signature road performance under ten Hag.


Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United

It’s a difficult environment and opponent United are up against on Saturday, and it may be a bit too early of a meeting for either side to turn it into a true heavyweight fight. A draw and a “we’ll meet again” could be in the cards for a match between two teams (seemingly) on the right path.