Both sides will be pleased with their midweek displays with Chelsea humbling Juventus 4-0 at Stamford Bridge, while Man Utd secured top spot over Villarreal in a much needed reprieve.
Admittedly, neither the Italian nor Spanish outfit have been enduring the best of campaigns domestically this term, though the Blues’ dismantling of the Bianconeri had an air of imposing authority about it that was hard to ignore.
Cristiano Ronaldo was very much the hero again for the Red Devils against Villarreal, while Jadon Sancho will take confidence from his first goal for the club, but Man Utd flattered to deceive on many occasions under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Although a change in the dugout certainly can’t make performances worse than they already were, with the same coaching staff in place, it’s hard to see a complete revival of fortunes and a W4-D2-L6 over their past 12 fixtures leaves plenty to be desired.
Chelsea are now unbeaten in 10 appearances, winning eight of these over 90 minutes, during which time they’ve racked up a healthy seven clean sheets and scored at least three times on six occasions.
That includes just one goal conceded across the past five, so United have their work cut out penetrating a steely backline.
That record is in stark contrast to the visitors, whose clean sheet midweek still leaves them with just three shutouts from 26 outings since late April, as they’ve conceded twice at a minimum in six of their past eight.
Chelsea Over 1.5 Goals
Harry Maguire has come in for plenty of criticism this season but was a solid presence against Villarreal, though his red card at Watford means he’ll be suspended here.
Further, Michael Carrick’s defensive headache is exacerbated by the continued absence of the world class Raphael Varane.
Across United’s past five league games, he’s missed the defeats to Leicester (4-2), Liverpool (5-0), Man City (2-0) and Watford (4-1), while in the exception, they beat Tottenham (3-0) as he played the full 90 minutes.
Elsewhere, Luke Shaw remains a doubt following a head injury last weekend, so Alex Telles looks set to continue at left-back. Further forwards, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani remain sidelined, and Mason Greenwood is highly doubtful having recently tested positive for covid, though with a top-heavy squad these absences at least lessen Carrick’s selection dilemma.
Thomas Tuchel may be forced into a couple of changes with Ben Chillwell and N’Golo Kante leaving the field with knee injuries against Juventus, while Mateo Kovacic is still injured and Kai Havertz is a doubt as well.
However, with Marcos Alonso able to come in on the left flank and Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s stature growing at the club, the hosts are hardly without solutions.
Romelu Lukaku is also back from injury to spearhead the attack, though may have to make do with a substitute role after his lay-off, but unlike Man Utd, Chelsea’s tactical setup leaves them far less susceptible to absentees brining the team down.
Reece James To Score Anytime
With Lukaku working his way back to fitness coupled with Man Utd’s myriad defensive problems, Reece James emerges as a highly credible candidate to register on the scoreboard at some stage.
Where the wing-back has played at least 45 minutes this season, he’s had 10 goal involvements (five goals and five assists) from 10 appearances.
That includes four goals and four assists in the league alone from six such appearances, and he’ll enjoy the opportunity to come up against the defensively suspect Alex Telles.
CHELSEA OVER 1.5 GOALS
REECE JAMES TO SCORE ANYTIME
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