It’s box office Saturday, when The Master Louis Van Gaal goes head to head with his apprentice Jose Mourinho when Manchester United visit Stamford Bridge for the Round 33 of the Premier League.
For 90 minutes, friends will turn foes when they pit their wits against each other as England’s top two teams go head to head in one of Premier League’s most anticipated games this year. Manchester United will be aiming to secure their first victory over the League leaders in eight matches, Chelsea on the other hand, are unbeaten in 13 games and are set to move 10 points clear at the top of the table with six games in hand.
Let’s analyze our opponents in our opposition scouting report:
Founded as Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878, the club changed its name to Manchester United in 1902 and moved to Old Trafford in 1910. They have won 20 league titles, 11 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, and a record 20 FA Community Shields. In 1998-99, the club achieved a treble of the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League. With an annual revenue of €518 million, they are the second richest football club in the world.
Van Gaal’s side head into the game in ominous form. After last Sunday’s Manchester Derby, they have extended their winning run to six top-flight games. They have swept aside top teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City with outstanding performances. United have taken 12 points from a possible 12 in their last four matches, with three of those coming up against their top four rivals. This has installed a level of optimism, that they can challenge the league leaders this Saturday for the title. United are placed third on the table with 65 points from 32 games. Last 5 matches (Premier League): W-W-W-W-W
Michael Carrick is expected to sit this one out after injuring his calf following the Manchester Derby, Jonny Evans is serving a six-game ban for spitting at Newcastle United’s Papiss Cisse. The good news for Van Gaal is that Robin van Persie and Luke Shaw might be fit for Saturday after the duo trained this week. Center Back Phil Jones remains doubtful after the derby, but might just recover in time for the game.
The Van Gaal philosophy has found its rhythm as the United manager will put out a 4-1-4-1 formation against the Blues. It has been a tried and trusted formation given his side are on a four-match winning streak. Herrera and ex-Chelsea star Juan Mata would govern the right wing with an in-form Fellaini and Young on the left. Carrick is doubtful to start in the central midfield, causing some issues for Van Gaal. Blind has been wonderful in the past few games at the left-back position with Valencia trusted in the right. Jones and Rojo will be in charge of guarding the keeper. Wayne Rooney will be leading from the front making sure the Chelsea centre-backs are on their toes.
Strength – Key Player
It is the re-emergence of Fellaini, that has given United an extra edge. United have had a strong left-sided play in recent matches which includes the link-up play between Fellaini, Young and Daley Blind. The Reds hold on to the ball until the Belgian channels his way into the box, banking on the important crosses. The 6’4″ midfielder is a menace for any defense with his combination of size and fearsome power. Matic will be the man to keep the Belgian quite on the right which leaves Cesc Fabregas vulnerable in midfield. Mourinho is a tactical genius and might just opt to start Zouma with a 4-3-3 formation to derail the in-form Fellaini. It is bound to be physical, particularly in the zone Fellaini charges.
With an injured Carrick and doubtful Jones, Van Gaal has a problem in his defense. Blind might move in Carrick’s place in central midfield and Rojo at left-back, which changes United’s attacking strength on the left. Young, Blind and Fellaini have had great link-up plays in recent games and it might just not be as good as it was with Blind playing left-back. On the right, Manchester United have to contain one of the greatest threats in Eden Hazard. Valencia does not have the ability to deal with the little Belgian on his own, which makes Juan Mata follow Hazard up and down the flank. Mata, on the other hand is not known for his defensive abilities making United’s right flank weak and vulnerable.
Head to Head:
The last time these two giants met was in October 2014, where Van Persie grabbed a last minute equalizer at Old Trafford. They have faced each other 153 times with United winning 63 times, leaving Chelsea with 47. On 43 occasions, United and Chelsea have settled for a draw and shared a point each.
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last 12 Premier League home games against Manchester United (W7 D4 L1).
- Manchester United have suffered more Premier League defeats against Chelsea than versus any other side (15).
- United have not won in four attempts against Chelsea since Javier Hernandez secured a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge in October 2012
August 15, 2004 was the first time Jose Mourinho met Manchester United and has lost only once in the 13 meetings during his time in England. Stamford Bridge under the Portuguese has been a fortress yet again this season with Chelsea unbeaten at home in the Premier League – collecting 39 points in 15 matches, giving The Blues an edge over the Reds at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester United come into this game brimming with confidence after their 4-2 victory against their local rivals, but will be put to the test when they face a team that has been the best in the Premier League by far. The result of Saturday’s game is unlikely to change the destination of Chelsea or United. Both teams can afford to lose, but it’s still Chelsea playing Manchester United and it is bound to be a war on all fronts.
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Edited By: Harshal Ahire