It is back to domestic matters this weekend after our first Euro test of the season earlier in the week. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton switch their attentions to our Old Trafford outing…
This weekend’s fixture brings together the two most successful English clubs of the 21st century: Chelsea have stacked up 17 titles and trophies since 2000, while Manchester United have managed 16.
It is a rivalry that is ancient and always attractive – the first ever fixture attracted a Division Two record of 67,000 to Stamford Bridge in 1906 – and is now in the hands of two young coaches who were club legends as players. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, now 47, was 40 when he took charge of Cardiff in 2014, three months younger than Frank Lampard when he first coached the Blues in 2019.
Chelsea head up to Cottonopolis in eighth place, while the hosts are 15th. Admittedly, they have played one game fewer than most, but so have Aston Villa and they go into the weekend second.
Man United have won both their Premier League matches on the road this season, but there has not been a home win in domestic competitions at Old Trafford for four games. Their two top-flight fixtures there have produced an aggregate score of 2-9.
The regular Saturday evening slot has delivered mixed results for the Blues over the past 18 months. Last season, wins at Burnley and Watford were followed by three straight losses at Manchester City, Newcastle and Sheffield United. The 3-3 humdinger at the Hawthorns last month was Chelsea’s first 5.30pm kick of the new season (though there is an argument the boys in Blue only started playing around an hour later, in the comeback).
Uppermost in the Londoners’ minds, though, will be the desire to repeat the comprehensive 3-1 FA Cup semi-final victory over the Mancunians at Wembley, a Saturday 6pm kick-off.
The Blues have won two of our past three Premier League games away to ‘Big Six’ clubs, at Tottenham and Arsenal.
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Chelsea team news
After Wednesday’s Champions League intriguing stalemate, Chelsea have managed three clean sheets this season, two of them with new signing Edou Mendy in goal and three of the same back four.
Other than the recovering Billy Gilmour, Frank Lampard has a virtually empty treatment room at Cobham and firepower to test a home defence that will be without first-choices Harry Maguire and Eric Bailly.
As BT’s analyst Joe Cole observed after Tuesday’s 0-0, matters arising from the second half of the 3-3 draw with Southampton look to have been addressed, with greater defensive calmness, coherence and togetherness, despite regular Sevilla pressure.
Mistakes were still made but, unusually this season, they went unpunished. Five individual errors by Blues players have led to Premier League goals so far, the most by any club, despite conceding the second fewest goalscoring opportunities.
And while Chelsea players are dispossessed by an opponent fewer times per game than any other top-flight side (just over five), the average number of instances of losing the ball through poor control has been the highest (nearly 20 times every 90 minutes).
The Blues head coach will still hope for a more clinical approach in front of goal, especially against a Man United team that allows very few glimpses of goal at home. Last season the 0-4 scoreline in this fixture misrepresented the run of play, but such is life.
David De Gea’s errors were dwelt upon after our brilliantly executed 3-1 FA Cup semi-final victory at Wembley in July, but the Blues’ tactics successfully nullified Bruno Fernandes’s influence, and United could not withstand the Londoners’ energy and aggression. It will take a similar performance to overturn a poor league showing at Old Trafford since 2013.
Perhaps west London can emulate the north Londoners of Tottenham who beat 10-man United so convincingly by switching play rapidly in attack, stretching the hosts’ rearguard to breaking point. Darting runs from midfield drew the Red Devils’ full-backs inside, creating space on the flanks. This would suit the Blues, for whom Reece James and Ben Chilwell were outstanding in midweek.
Perhaps Hakim Ziyech will see more action against former Ajax team-mate Donny van de Beek – Chelsea’s wizard midfielder was the Amsterdam club’s player of the year in each of the past three seasons.
Up and down United
When Chelsea last left Old Trafford with three points in May 2013 – the last time Sir Alex Ferguson clashed swords with the Londoners, the only goal of the game that day was awarded to Juan Mata.
The popular Spaniard was recently reinstated in the Manchester United starting 11 following their troubled start to the 2020/21 campaign, including Tottenham’s 6-1 victory in Manchester last time out.
Although Jose Mourinho seemed to identify Eric Bailly as a weak point in United’s backline in that game, firing long passes from the back towards Harry Kane, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw also made errors as the visitors racked up the score. All three could be out on Saturday, with the centre-backs injured and chance-creating left-back Alex Telles newly arrived from Porto.
At the other end of the pitch Man U can trouble any team, with forwards rotating, and lots of one-touch lay-offs intended to set up shots from the edge of the box. Chelsea will have to be on high alert to close those pockets of space and restrict attempts.
Anthony Martial’s suspension could mean a debut for old adversary Edinson Cavani, who netted three goals in eight games against the Blues for Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain between 2012 and 2016.
How to watch Manchester United-Chelsea live stream
The game is live on BT Sport in the UK. If abroad, for the local broadcaster where you are, check the Premier League’s television guide, updated through the season.
Chelsea TV’s globally available matchday shows – including early team news, exclusive interviews and analysis – are on the 5th Stand app, Facebook Live, and the official YouTube channel.
It was contrary of Chelsea to register the first 0-0 of the Frank Lampard era in midweek as last weekend’s 3-3 draw at home to Southampton was the second instance of that usually rare scoreline this season. The first was West Bromwich Albion away – Chelsea’s first equal share of six goals since January 2016 against Everton.
The last time two came along in quick succession was just before Christmas 2009, first against Blackburn in the League Cup on 2 December, then in the league 10 days later, also against the Toffees. In 2012 the same scoreline was recorded when this weekend’s hosts visited the Bridge.
The most 3-3s in a single season for the Blues is three, which has happened twice: Burnley, Stoke and Coventry, all in the league, in 1974/75; and 1957/58 against Bolton and Birmingham in the top flight and Darlington in the FA Cup.
There have actually been two 5-5 results in Chelsea’s history, at Bolton in October 1937 and home to West Ham in December 1966, and 12 4-4s. The last two of those were Champions League nights at the Bridge: Liverpool in April 2009 and Ajax in November 2019.
Europe’s top-flight goal floods
It is not just draws that are inflating the goals figures in England, but headline-grabbing margins such as Man United’s 6-1 home defeat and Liverpool’s 7-2 loss the same day. With 172 goals from 48 games to date, the Premier League is running hot at just under 3.6 strikes per game. That is the highest average since 1960/61, and 19th in the top flight since 1888.
The same can be said of Italy (birthplace of the defensive catenaccio system), where Serie A is currently averaging 3.7 goals per game, a historic high, and in France, where Rennes and other Ligue 1 sides are registering the most since 1982/83.
In contrast the Bundesliga’s tally is lagging behind its previous two campaigns and in Spain, Sevilla and co. are producing just 2.2 goals per game, the lowest in La Liga history apart from 1972/73. Russia’s Premier Liga, where Krasnodar ply their trade, is notching up the usual figures.
Silverware’s new showcase
Anyone looking for a Blues-themed outing this weekend could do a lot worse than visit the new displays at the Chelsea Museum at Stamford Bridge, including all new trophy room showcasing the goodly haul the club has amassed through the years. You will not find the cup with the big ears anywhere else in London, and can plan your trip here.
Premier League fixtures
Aston Villa v Leeds 8pm (BT Sport Box Office)
West Ham v Man City 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Fulham v Crystal Palace 3pm (BT Sport Box Office)
Man Utd v Chelsea 5.30pm (Sky Sports)
Liverpool v Sheffield Utd 8pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
Southampton v Everton 2pm (Sky Sports)
Wolves v Newcastle 4.30pm (Sky Sports)
Arsenal v Leicester 7.15pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
Brighton v West Brom 5.30pm (Sky Sports Box Office)
Burnley v Tottenham 8pm (Sky Sports)
|9||West Ham United||5||2||1||2||11||7||4||7|
|16||Brighton and Hove Albion||5||1||1||3||9||11||-2||4|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||5||0||2||3||5||13||-8||2|