The eye-catching fixture of the weekend will be played at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea welcome Manchester United.
This will be a match that has ramifications for the battle for the top four. The visitors are currently in second position and they have been talked about as potential title contenders. The form of Manchester City means that it is now unlikely, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer shouldn’t take their position in the top four for granted, as they are only six points clear of Chelsea. A home victory on Sunday will have Manchester United looking over their shoulders.
The form under Thomas Tuchel has vindicated the decision to make the managerial change during the season. Chelsea are now only two points off the top four and their victory over Atletico Madrid during the week will give them confidence of progressing in the Champions League. It has been the defensive improvements that will please supporters, as they have only conceded twice in eight matches across all competitions. This will be their biggest test since Tuchel took charge, but their dominant performance against Atletico in the Champions League will give them confidence.
Manchester United have made positive progress under Solskjaer this season, but he will be judged by the end results. If they do drop off in the league and end the season without a trophy, his position could come under threat. This fixture is an important one for United, as it gives them an opportunity to increase the gap on Chelsea. However, they can take a more conservative approach, as they are in the higher position and a draw would be considered a good result. Solskjaer has been praised for his tactical approaches in big matches. This is another chance for him to show that and get a crucial result.
Last weekend, Mason Mount became the 25th player to score a penalty in the Premier League for Chelsea. No other club has had more scorers from the spot in the competition’s history.
Bruno Fernandes has reached double figures for goals and assists in the Premier League. He becomes the third player in the top five European leagues to have done this in the 2020-21 season, following Harry Kane and Thomas Muller.
Since his breakthrough, there have been doubts about whether Mason Mount should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Some tarred him as Frank Lampard’s favourite, but he has now established himself as one of the core players under Tuchel. There is no longer room for doubt where Mount is concerned, as he is one of best players in the Chelsea squad. This season, he has contributed four goals and three assist. Although he would like to improve on these numbers, he is being played in a more advanced position under the new manager, as one of the number tens behind the striker. In this role, he has the freedom to roam in the final third and his creativity has shone in the matches so far. Last weekend, he has two shots, two key passes and three successful dribbles. It was a disappointing attacking display on the South Coast, but Mount was one of the few to emerge with credit. He has the quality to play a big part on Sunday and help his side to a huge three points.
At this point, it seems foolish not to single out Bruno Fernandes as the key player for Manchester United, as he has transformed the club. Prior to his arrival, they were struggling to compete for the top four. With him, they look capable of pushing on to challenge for major honours. There are still issues with the squad, but having a player as consistent as the Portuguese midfielder means they are capable of winning any game. Since his arrival at Old Trafford, he has contributed 23 goals and 17 assists in the Premier League, with a goal involvement every 83.4 minutes.
There is a case to be made that he has to be considered the best player in the league during this period and he will be one of the leading contenders for the PFA Player of the Year award. He has the quality in the final third to win any game for Manchester United and he will need to be at his best to unlock a determined Chelsea defence.
Thiago Silva is inching closer to a return, but he may not be risked for this match. Olivier Giroud will be hoping to retain his place following his match-winner in the Champions League.
Edinson Cavani, Scott McTominay and Donny van der Beek are all doubts for this weekend, following spells on the sidelines. Paul Pogba and Phil Jones remain out and neither will be available for the trip to the capital.
This will be a tight game. Chelsea haven’t been involved in matches with lots of goals since the appointment of Tuchel. Over time, he will want his team to be more expressive, but he won’t want to change too much for this fixture. Manchester United are most dangerous when given space to counter attack, but they won’t be afforded that against the Blues. For that reason, they may struggle to create clear cut chances. This is a great opportunity for Chelsea to close the points gap to Manchester United. Based on their recent form, they are worth backing for a home win.
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
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