Chelsea host Manchester United on Monday night at Stamford Bridge in the most anticipated matchup of the week.
The bitter rivals both had their sights set on getting into the top four this season, but recent events have changed things quite a bit. Manchester City were given a two-year ban from European competition during the week, which now means whoever finishes in 5th place in the Premier League will qualify for the Champions League as well.
That doesn’t take any pressure off the two teams, however, as the chasing pack are getting closer and closer as the weeks go on. The likes of Sheffield United, Tottenham Hotspur, Wolves, and Everton will all be watching this game intently, as both the Blues and the Red Devils can make a massive statement on the night.
Chelsea faced another top four competitor last week, as they travelled to the King Power Stadium to take on Leicester City.
After a tense first half that didn’t produce much, fans were getting prepared for a potential scoreless draw. However, the game burst into life after the break.
The Blues would open the scoring after only a few minutes through center back Antonio Rudiger, who headed home from close range. However, the lead would not last long, as Harvey Barnes eqaulised for Leicester less than 10 minutes later.
The winger cut inside before getting a shot off that deflected into the back of the net.
The Foxes would add another at the hour mark. Ben Chilwell managed to get on the end of a low cross from Youri Tielemans in the area, smashing a shot past the keeper to put his team ahead.
Chelsea responded well, and tied the contest back up soon after. It would be Rudiger once again, as he jumped highest to win an aerial duel, heading past Kasper Schmeichel to level the score on the afternoon.
That would prove to be the final action of the hectic match, as nothing could separate the two sides, who each settled for a decent enough point.
Manchester United, on the other hand, hosted Wolves. That game also started off slowly, but unlike the previous contest, didn’t improve in the second half at all.
The Red Devils failed to create much going forward, as per usual. The only attacking threat for them was the debuting Bruno Fernandes, who came close with a few shots from distance.
No one was helping him out, however, which forced the Portuguese international to drop deeper as a result.
The away side were arguably better on the afternoon. Wolverhampton Wanderers had more clear cut opportunities but were denied by David De Gea time and time again. Wingback Matt Doherty got free at the far post at one point, but his header was saved by the United goalkeeper.
No one watching was surprised to see the match end 0-0, and it was arguably the correct scoreline considering how dreadful it was.
Last time out
Man United and Chelsea faced off in the 4th round of the Carabao Cup earlier in the year, but their last league matchup came at the very start of the campaign.
Up against each other in the first week of the new season at Old Trafford, fans were full of intrigue going into the contest.
The Blues came out the blocks hot, dominating possession while making their opponents very uncomfortable on the ball whenever they got it. They couldn’t convert their chances, however, and the game stayed scoreless.
They would be left to rue those misses, as the Red Devils were the ones who would take the lead. Kurt Zouma hacked down Marcus Rashford in the area, and the referee had no other choice than to point to the spot. Rashford stepped up to take the resulting penalty and converted confidently.
That moment would be the momentum boost United desperately needed, as they took control of the contest afterwards.
They would eventually double their advantage at the hour mark through Anthony Martial, who got on the end of a cross from Andreas Pereira to poke home from a few yards out.
It would be three only minutes later. Paul Pogba picked the ball up in the midfield before playing Rashford in behind with a picture-perfect pass. The Englishman only needed to take one touch to settle himself before rifling a shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The rout would be completed in the 81st minute, as Pogba drove forward before finding Daniel James on the counter, who took a shot that deflected into the back of the net.
It was the perfect start to the season for United, and a nightmare one for debuting Chelsea boss Frank Lampard.
Chelsea’s biggest worry will be with Tammy Abraham, as the Blues still don’t know if their starting striker will be available for selection. He did feature versus Leicester City, but it’s unclear how much he’ll be able to play this time around.
They will be without Christian Pulisic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who are still recovering from their respective long term injuries.
United have the same issues as before. Both Scott McTominay and Axel Tuanzebe took part in the team’s warm-weather training in Spain, but won’t be fully fit in time for Monday’s fixture.
Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford won’t be back anytime soon either, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah picked up another knock recently, so he’s been ruled out as well.
Chelsea: Kepa, James, Christiansen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Willian, Mount, Pedro, Abraham
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams, Fred, Matic, James, Fernandes, Lingard, Martial
What to watch for
Solskjaer’s last chance?
Monday night could very well be the last time we see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as Manchester United head coach.
He’s been under immense pressure these last few weeks, and another loss this time out could be the final nail in his coffin. The Red Devils are already sat in 9th place, and failing to pick up points could lead to them slipping down the table even further.
It would also increase the gap between them and the top five, which might quickly become insurmountable.
There are also the reports linking former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino with the United job. He’s proven he can get it done with various teams, and the Argentine could be the man to lead the Red Devils into the future.
Solskjaer has somehow survived for this long, but losing to Chelsea would have to be the end of his United tenure.