Premier League is back this weekend, where Louis Van Gaal’s struggling Manchester United is hosting Jose Mourinho’s impressive Chelsea at the Old Trafford, in what will be the 9th league game of the season for both the teams.
Chelsea, fresh of a 6-0 win in the UEFA Champions League, mid-week at Stamford Bridge, sits comfortably at top of the points table with 22 points in the 8 games played so far. Riding on an impressive form, Mourinho does have some injury concerns going into this fixture with Loic Remy already ruled out with a groin injury while, Costa, Ramires and Mikel remain a doubt.
Meanwhile, Van Gaal has more difficult issues to deal with, after he witnessed his side’s continuing struggle against West Bromwich Albion last weekend, where the Baggies were successful in holding the Red Devils to share a point each. Sitting at 6th position with 12 points in 8 games so far, even a draw would be a favorable for United on Sunday.
With the presence of some big name players in both the teams, this match could well be decided by an individual brilliance. So, keeping that in mind, we decided to analyze some key player battles which may affect the outcome of this game:
BRANISLAV IVANOVIC vs ANGEL DI MARIA
Probably, the most important battle to keep an eye on Sunday, this clash could definitely influence the outcome of the game. The £59.7 million record summer signing has either been directly involved or has been the catalyst in most of the United’s threatening moves this season, already amassing 3 goals and 4 assists in his 6 appearances so far.
On the other hand, Ivanovic, who has been brilliant for Chelsea on either side of the half so far, will probably have his most stern test of the season, when he comes up against the flashy winger on Sunday.
The Serbian, who has earned himself a spot in the Mourinho’s favorite list by his consistent performances in the right-back position, will probably have to keep in check his frequent forward runs on the weekend because, the only thing worse than a Di Maria would be a Di Maria with acres of spaces, when the Argentine is in-arguably at his best.
Knowing Jose Mourinho, we may also see Willian assigned the duty of tracking back on our right side of the pitch, to tackle and intercept the United winger.
Bottomline – If we are able to control the primary creative outlet of the United on Sunday, it could become really difficult for the hosts to trouble Courtois and our clean-sheet tomorrow!
RAFAEL vs EDEN HAZARD
After destroying the Maribor’s defence mercilessly into bits and pieces in the midweek, the Belgian magician will be back in action at the left wing on Sunday, lining up against the Brazilian right-back Rafael.
Rafael, who is usually known for his attacking prowess in the fullback role, will have to be at his level best; and even that may not be enough when he comes up against the in-form Eden Hazard.
With 2 goals and 1 assist in the Premier League so far this season, we witnessed the best of the Belgian in the last few games especially against Arsenal and Maribor, where he ripped apart the opposition defense with his daunting runs and amazing trickery which he would love to continue at Old Trafford on the weekend.
If Hazard can be a little more clinical in the final third, there wouldn’t be much Rafael could do to stop him, other than foul him, which Hazard would obviously relish.
Definitely, an exciting battle to look out for on the weekend.
RADAMEL FALCAO vs JOHN TERRY
For all the vulnerability in their defense and the central midfield, United does have an amazing number of attacking options at their disposal, and one of them is the Colombian striker Radamel Falcao. The on-loan striker, widely regarded as the best striker in the world during his Atletico days, is still one of the most preferred options to have upfront.
Scoring 1 goal in his 4 appearances so far for the Red Devils, Falcao does have a history with the Blues, when he scored a hat-trick against us for Atletico Madrid in the 2012 UEFA Super Cup.
We might have a more superior and balanced side now compared to that team, but it goes without saying that Falcao has the ability to turn this game around with his brilliance in the final third.
John Terry didn’t had much to do in the midweek clash against NK Maribor, but he has to be on his heels to stop the Colombian from getting into scoring positions and convert from open play, and given the obvious abilities of Falcao, this might be the one of the most difficult challenges, Terry is going to face in the entire season.
Do keep an eye on this Clash of the Titans!
CESC FABREGAS vs DALEY BLIND
Given United’s frailties in the defensive midfield position, this might be an excellent opportunity for Cesc Fabregas to rip apart Van Gaal’s midfield with his incisive passes and creativity from the deep on Sunday.
Daley Blind, another summer signing, deployed on the defensive midfield position has been decent for Van Gaal this season, but with just 3 tackles and 1 goal in his 5 appearances so far, the duty of stopping the Spanish play-maker’s majestic runs and passes might be a bit out of reach for the Dutch midfielder when he lines up against Chelsea on Sunday.
Cesc Fabregas has already taken up the Premier League by storm with his 7 assists and a goal and has been one of the main reason for the Blues’ excellence going forward this season.
On Sunday, he will have a job to create spaces and get into dangerous positions from the deep while it will be Daley Blind for United with the unfortunate job of containing him.
Either way, it will be one of the battles to watch out for in the center of the pitch.
Edited By: Harshal Ahire