It's our first Sunday 4pm fixture of the season. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton look ahead at the weekend football programme's main act…
This weekend Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Stamford Bridge as the top two in the Premier League for the first time since April 2008. Manchester City may already have overtaken their rivals before kick-off, but the Blues will remain leaders whatever the outcome of Sunday's match.
That the two teams will meet again in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday will have no bearing on team selection for one of the biggest games in English league football.
So, after weeks of bluster, the heat has finally been taken out of the situation. We refer of course to the weather. (What did you think we meant?) It is likely to be a damp, chilly 8°C at kick-off. (Memo to Sir Alex - it is not only the away dressing room that will be cool enough 'to hang meat in' this time.)
With that in mind, as winter draws on, the Manchester United manager likes to remind the media that his 'traditionally slow starters' are always better in the second half of the season.
United have 18 points from eight games to date. Last season they had gathered 20 by the same stage. In 2010/11, when they last won the league, the figure was 14, and in 2009/10 - the season Carlo Ancelotti steered Chelsea to the Double - it was 19.
But there is no evidence that they perform better after Christmas. The halfway split was 45 from the first 19 games, 44 the rest last season, 41/39 in 2010/11 and in 2009/10 it was 40/45. If those figures suggests anything it is that United's best part of the season varies from year to year.
Days such as Tuesday in Donetsk are sometimes better written off than written down. Thankfully Nordsjaelland's holding of Juventus was of equal significance. The Italians have now not won in 10 European matches.
Chelsea's task remains to win both remaining home games in Group E and gain something from the trip to Turin.
The game against Shakhtar was a painful suggestion that without a soloist such as Didier Drogba calling the tune, the whole orchestra has to be on song to win the day. Oscar's third Champions League goal may become vital in the head-to-head tally with the Ukrainians come December.
Still, the weekend performance at Tottenham offered hope that with the right intensity a Chelsea that is more Swiss army knife than blunt instrument is emerging. The team is already 10 points up on like-for-like matches last season.
This game offers the opportunity to make that 12. Last season the Blues raced into a 3-0 lead five minutes into the second half, with goalkeeper David De Gea always unsettled.
However two penalties in 10 minutes awarded by Howard Webb turned the visitors' fortunes around, and Javier Hernandez snatched a late point. It felt like a defeat.
The Blues have conceded just over half the number of goals as Sunday's visitors. Sir Alex Ferguson says the reason he cannot put his finger on why Man United are shipping so many is because of the variety of ways they are let in. It was certainly unfamiliar to see them allow Michael Kightly to bundle his way straight through their centre to score for Stoke last weekend.United have allowed their opponent to score first in six of the eight matches played so far - the worst record in the top flight. Chelsea have been the most alert, Norwich alone stealing a march on the European champions, only to lose 1-4 in the end.
Never the less it is a mark of the Red Devils' determination that they have overturned four of those six early setbacks, losing the other two.
As a result Ferguson's side have salvaged 12 points from losing positions. In that respect the Blues are not far behind, having trailed during games and responded to gain nine points - last week's reaction at 1-2 down to Tottenham last weekend providing the perfect example.
Chelsea and Man United's neighbours Manchester City are the only remaining unbeaten teams in the Barclays Premier League. The Blues are on a six-match winning streak at home in domestic competitions, but United have won their last three league games on the road.
Were the league based on second halves of matches alone Man United would be leaders, just, on goal difference.
The Blues have not lost to United at Stamford Bridge in the league for more than a decade. In that 3-3 visit last season the Red Devils almost doubled their goals tally, from four to seven, in their last 11 visits in all competitions.
Barclays Premier League fixtures
Aston Villa v Norwich 12.45pm - Sky Sports
Arsenal v QPR 3pm
Reading v Fulham 3pm
Stoke v Sunderland 3pm
Wigan v West Ham 3pm
Man City v Swansea 5.30pm - ESPN
Everton v Liverpool 1.30pm - Sky Sports
Newcastle v West Brom 3pm
Southampton v Tottenham 3pm
Chelsea v Manchester United 4pm - Sky Sports
|Barclays Premier League table top eight|
Click on tabs above for more briefing.
WE HAVE HISTORY
The last time Chelsea and Manchester United met as the teams occupying first and second place in the Premier League was one of Michael Ballack's finest matches in a Chelsea shirt.
It was April 2008 and Frank Lampard was absent mourning the loss of his mother, Pat. Ballack responded to the added responsibility exceptionally, orchestrating much of Chelsea's play from midfield and opening the scoring just before half-time.
The goal was a typically pugnacious close-range header past Edwin van der Sar from a brilliantly-worked Didier Drogba cross. The German was booked for removing his jersey in celebration, while his teammates touchingly held up a shirt with Pat Lampard's name on it.
United were gifted an equaliser on 57 minutes when Riccy Carvalho uncharacteristically set up Wayne Rooney by mistake, and the Englishman beat Petr Cech. With a win required to draw level with the leaders, Drogba and Ballack then had an extended spat on the field over free-kick duties.
Never the less Avram Grant's team drove forward persistently. With a little over five minutes remaining Michael Essien crossed and Michael Carrick blocked it with his arm: penalty, said the linesman, correctly.
With no Lampard, Drogba stood aside to allow Ballack the honour. Van der Sar was booked for attempting to put him off, but the German sent the Dutchman the wrong way to put Chelsea 2-1 ahead.
Ashley Cole and Andriy Shevchenko both cleared shots off the line late on but the Blues held out to keep the title challenge alive, albeit briefly.
In last season's memorable 3-3 draw, John Terry, Lampard, John Mikel Obi and Ramires were not available due to injury, Cole was suspended and Drogba and Salomon Kalou were away at the African Cup of Nations.
Chelsea are looking to extend our unbeaten Premier League run against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge to 11 games since the Red Devils last won here in 2002.
Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunner Solskjaer scored the last time the Red Devils came away from SW6 with three points in April 2002. It is their only league win in their last 14 visits to Stamford Bridge.
Since that match, the Blues have won 22 points at Stamford Bridge and Man United four from 30 available.
Our last 10 league meetings at Stamford Bridge
2002/03 - Drew 2-2
2003/04 - Chelsea won 1-0
2004/05 - Chelsea won 1-0
2005/06 - Chelsea won 3-0
2006/07 - Drew 0-0
2007/08 - Chelsea won 2-1
2008/09 - Drew 1-1
2009/10 - Chelsea won 1-0
2010/11 - Chelsea won 2-1
2011/12 - Drew 3-3
Other match last season
18 September 2011 Barclays Premier League
Man Utd………..….3 Chelsea………..……1
Smalling 7 Torres 46
Chelsea v Manchester United in all competitions
Games played 163
Chelsea wins 44
Man United wins 71
Head-to-head in the League at Stamford Bridge
Games played 70
Chelsea wins 22
Man United wins 29
Biggest league win at Stamford Bridge for each team
Chelsea 5-0 Man Utd - 03/10/1999
Chelsea 0-4 Man Utd - 29/11/1947
Chelsea dropped points at Stamford Bridge: 179
Man United won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League: 3,844
Arsenal won a trophy: 2,717
Liverpool won the league: 8,212
Visit again tomorrow for part two of the Briefing.