Chelsea can continue their good start to the season when they host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in the English Premier League on Saturday (7.30am ET).
Eleven points separated the sides last season, with United in second and Chelsea fifth, but the tables look likely to turn this time around. Chelsea have made an unbeaten start to the campaign and sit joint top, while Man Utd are down in eighth, having already lost three times.
The speed with which Chelsea have adapted to the approach of new coach Maurizio Sarri has been impressive. Under Antonio Conte, they played a more cautious game, built around forming a relatively deep-lying defensive block and then striking swiftly in transition. Under Sarri, they are seeking to dominate possession and win the ball back quickly once lost.
Sarri is quick to admit that his side still need some development time to maintain a serious challenge to Liverpool and reigning champions Manchester City over the full length of the Premier League campaign. They are nevertheless already playing attractive and well-drilled soccer that has seen them to six victories alongside draws with West Ham and Liverpool.
Eden Hazard is thriving under a more attack-minded coach than he has usually had at Stamford Bridge. The Belgian has already provided seven goals and three assists (a direct contribution to a goal for every 58 minutes he has been on the pitch) and looks well on course to beating his league scoring record for a season, which stands at 16.
There are certain to be stretches of the campaign in which Chelsea face some struggles. The fact that both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are only a couple of points behind them means that even with a good start, they will still likely face a season-long battle for a top-four spot. Right now, the atmosphere around the club is overwhelmingly positive.
The same certainly cannot be said for Manchester United. The media was awash with stories of an imminent departure for Jose Mourinho in the build up to their match at home to Newcastle before the international break. When they went in 2-0 down at the interval, the end appeared near. Man Utd staged a second-half comeback to win 3-2, with goals from Juan Mata and Anthony Martial followed by a last-minute winner from Alexis Sanchez.
Mourinho therefore earned himself a stay of execution. Performances and results will have to improve a great deal over the next couple of months if he is to remain in his position, and United are to drag themselves back into top-four contention. They are already seven points worse off than they were at this stage last season, and five points shy of Arsenal in fourth.
Last season, Man Utd’s underlying statistics were far less impressive than their actual finishing position of second and that reality now seems to be catching up with them. They are struggling defensively and Mourinho seems unwilling to give his side sufficient freedom in attack to overcome that. Only when they find themselves with a deficit to make up, as in the Newcastle match, does he release the shackles.
The third season is traditionally when things start to unravel in Mourinho’s relationships with directors and his players alike and the same story seems to be playing out at Old Trafford. He spent pre-season somewhat laughably complaining about a lack of backing in the transfer market, has since been involved in public spats with midfielder Paul Pogba and has failed to produce a side who look capable of challenging for the Premier League title.
The media build up to this fixture and the contrasting moods in both camps should, in theory, provide Mourinho with just the fuel he needs to create the sort of us-versus-them narrative that has long been one of his staple motivational tools. Even if he succeeds in doing so, it will unlikely be enough to tip the balance in his side’s favor on Saturday.
Chelsea are playing better structured and more effective soccer right now. It is no surprise they are favorites to win this with our trusted U.S. offshore sportsbooks.
Our Preview’s Chelsea vs. Man Utd Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
Chelsea are the most probable victors in a match that is likely to feature more goals than is traditional in this fixture. So for our Chelsea vs Man Utd predictions, this game preview goes with the one advised pick:
- Bet on “Chelsea to win and over 2.5 goals to be scored” @ +150 (6/4) with Bovada.