Chelsea vs Manchester United
After the briefest of sojourns for these sides, the Premier League big beasts return and this Monday night clash has the potential to be the best match of the lot this weekend.
Two attack-minded sides with real potential, yet vulnerabilities which have been regularly exposed in 2019/2020.
Throw in two fairly rookie managers who are both favourite sons of their respective clubs and a rivalry which is best summed up by the fact the two clubs have won the most Premier League titles since it began in 1992, and all the ingredients are in place for Premier League highlights.
Cynics would suggest at least one of these managers may not be in their respective jobs this time next year.
Yet if they both overcome the hurdles placed in front of them now, so the first long-term steps could be in taken to guide their clubs back to the glory they so enjoyed as players.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is optimistic his plan to restore the club to challengers is underway, yet there’s no doubt the Glazers’ parsimony affects strategy as well as success.
Defeat in this one will all but end their outside hopes of securing a top-four place next term and the financial damage that could cause — to miss out on a Champions League place for a second successive season for the first time in the club’s history — could be hugely damaging to the Norwegian’s hopes of staying in post and the club progressing in the required direction.
The questions against the United owners is the way the club is run, the investment in infrastructure cannot be levelled at their hosts on Monday night.
Chelsea have indeed been well served since Roman Abramovich arrived and changed the landscape of English football in 2003.
This season, through their story, has been largely about the use of young players from Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount to Reece James and Fikayo Tomori.
These players have justified the faith shown in them by boss Frank Lampard and helped the team provide daylight between themselves in fourth place and the challenging pack.
United can just be about described as in that pack. But going into the weekend in eighth place, they have so much ground to make up.
Team news-wise, Man Utd’s on-loan Nigerian striker Odion Ighalo is expected to be on the bench, while Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham will be assessed for a foot injury.
This clash will come too soon though for American Christian Pulisic, who has just resumed training after being out since New Year’s Day due to a groin injury.
United remain without long-term absentees Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.
These sides may not be as strong as they were, as they are both in transition or in the decline as cynics would suggest.
Either way though, this should remain a compelling spectacle.
Their opening day clash was a cracker if you were a Man Utd fan. Chelsea were the better side for an hour but ended up on the wrong end of a 4-0 thrashing.
Marcus Rashford scored twice in that game and also netted both, including a brilliant winner at Stamford Bridge in October as United knocked Chelsea out of the League Cup.
Last season both league meetings ended all square.
The Stamford Bridge encounter was a thriller with Antonio Rudiger heading Chelsea in front before a fine Anthony Martial double put United in charge. Chelsea needed a last-gasp Ross Barkley equaliser to rescue a point.
The return at Old Trafford ended 1-1 as Juan Mata pounced against his former club to open the scoring, only for a rare David de Gea error to allow Marcos Alonso a timely leveller.
United did produce a fine 2-0 win in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge, courtesy of goals from Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba.
Overall, United have triumphed 80 times against the west Londoners who have enjoyed success on 54 occasions. The other 51 matches have been draws.
Chelsea last won at Old Trafford in May 2013 – the scorer of the only goal that day was Juan Mata.
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