Pre-Match Briefing: Chelsea vs Manchester United

In what has been an unusual kick-off time slot for the Blues so far this season, we have the chance to continue the good form in one of the biggest fixtures. Club historian Rick Glanvill and club statistician Paul Dutton are ready to face the Red Devils…

Chelsea entertain Manchester United on Sunday in the final Premier League action of the weekend, completing more than a third of the campaign. It is the Blues’ first Sunday start at home in the league game since a 0-0 stalemate against the same opponents in February.

Thanks to a truly sensational evening of European football, the Blues head into this always luminous fixture in ebullient mood, top of the table at home and abroad. For the 10th time in the Premier League, the Londoners have won nine of our first 12 games. We won the title on five of the previous nine occasions and finished top three in the remainder.

Meanwhile, the kings of Cottonopolis lost the thread last weekend with their third substantial defeat in five games, although at Villarreal on Tuesday they won their first game without Ole at the wheel.

The Red Devils always arrive fired up at the Bridge but on form over the past eight top-flight matches, this is first versus 18th, Man United having lost five times in that period. Despite injury blows, Thomas Tuchel’s European champions will be determined to continue a run of eight wins from 10 games undefeated across all competitions, and try to end the seven-game winless league run against the Lancastrians.

Chelsea have faced Manchester United four times as league leaders at kick-off, winning three and going on to lift the title on each occasion (2005/06, 2009/10 and 2014/15).


Chelsea team news

The Blues midweek progress to the Champions League Round of 16 came at the expense of injuries to N’Golo Kante and Ben Chilwell. Ruben Loftus-Cheek ably replaced the France midfielder and could retain his place against the Red Devils. As to left wing-back, Tuchel explained he intended Cesar Azpilicueta to come on to relieve Reece James until Chilwell’s setback, which is anticipated to mean six weeks out in the first instance.

'Chilwell has a partial ACL injury, we will assess in six weeks. Kovacic and Kante are out'

Thomas Tuchel updates on the squad's injuries.

That leaves the role open to season-starter Marcos Alonso, though perhaps not every game. Callum Hudson-Odoi, so influential in a more advanced role on the left, is one alternative, and Christian Pulisic, who looks properly fit again, played as right wing-back for the Bavarian at Dortmund and in pre-season at Arsenal.

Romelu Lukaku was an unused substitute on Tuesday and could be in line for a return against his former club, against whom he once bagged a hat-trick. Despite his and Timo Werner’s absence, the Londoners have earned 10 league points from the past 12 possible.

Mateo Kovacic remains out but Kai Havertz has recovered from a tight hamstring.

Marcos Alonso found the net with a free-kick on the opening day of the season

The Juve victory brought the 31st clean sheet of Tuchel’s 50 games in charge, the most in the top five European leagues, and his team have conceded eight goals fewer than any major continental competitor. It currently takes a Premier League opponent more than 28 attempts on average to score against his side, whereas the Blues need just over six shots to find the net.

Opta statistics show Chelsea rank third in the Premier League (after Leeds and Liverpool) for harassing teams in their own half. The reason for doing so is to disrupt the opponent’s build-up as early as possible, and provide a shorter and less protected path to goal.

As a result, the Blues have gained possession 85 times in the 12 matches so far, resulting in 13 shots and two goals (a 2.35 per cent conversion rate), compared to Leeds’ two goals from 89 turnovers (2.24 per cent) and three from 139 (2.16 per cent) for Liverpool.

The Chelsea team is bristling with threat all over at the moment and although Tuchel would like more precision in the final third, he must be delighted at the different routes used to find the net: set-plays, lightning counter-attacks, pure trickery, and lay-backs from the byline.

Lukaku, Hudson-Odoi & Ziyech play “don’t flinch” challenge! | Top bins from Money Mase | Chelsea Unseen

The Chelsea men's team were full of energy in training this week! They challenged each other in a game of "don't flinch", then were put through their paces in mini-matches. Mount, Lukaku, Saul and more then showed off their skills in a shoot-out!

Hakim Ziyech is now showing pre-shoulder-injury form, setting up goals in successive games, while Pulisic and Werner have netted for the first time since August and October respectively.

The Blues’ defence has accounted for three of the seven goals since the international break and the same number of assists, while Trevoh Chalobah, who spanked home on his first Champions League start, initiated two of the goalscoring moves at Leicester. Sixteen of our 42 goals have come from defenders.

Man-of-the-moment Reece James heads the Blues’ combined goals and assists table and is already close to doubling his tally for the whole of last season.

Goal involvement all competitions 2020/21
Reece James5510
Mateo Kovacic156
Kai Havertz415
Mason Mount325
Hakim Ziyech235
Romelu Lukaku404
Ben Chilwell314
Timo Werner314
Callum Hudson-Odoi224
Trevoh Chalobah303
Cesar Azpilicueta033
Ruben Loftus-Cheek033
N’Golo Kante202
Christian Pulisic202
Toni Rudiger202
Marcos Alonso112
Thiago Silva112
Andreas Christensen101

Red Devils reboot

Michael Carrick is the sixth Manchester United coach in eight years since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, who held the position for more than a quarter of a century.

He and Kieran McKenna were already responsible for first team training and can provide continuity until the next interim can take charge. Carrick used the Norwegian’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation on Tuesday, mutating from 4-4-2 without the ball to 4-3-3 with it, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek regularly switching roles. Fred roved left to help track Villarreal’s wing-back and could try the same against Reece James, although he is an injury doubt.

Alex Telles was at left-back for concussion-stricken Luke Shaw, and Bruno Fernandes (without a goal in 14 games) was benched until replacing Van de Beek, changing the course of the match.

With Jadon Sancho deployed down the right there was something of the old wingers-and-crosses approach of the Ferguson era, though in truth David De Gea had kept the Yellow Submarine at bay for an hour.

Summer signing Jadon Sancho scored his first Man Utd goal midweek

Inevitably it was Ronaldo who broke the deadlock with his 10th strike this season, a third of United’s total. It is pantomime season and their 36-year-old Principal Boy still has all the best lines. Sanchez’s first goal settled the result.

Harry Maguire’s suspension this weekend robs Man United of their best shot-blocker and aerial competitor. Without the injured Raphael Varane there is not necessarily an obvious partner for Victor Lindelof and United have just two clean sheets to their name, with 21 goals against – only bottom clubs Norwich and Newcastle have conceded more.

Despite gathering more points away from Old Trafford, Man United have generally been slow starters on the road, finding the net only once in the opening half-hour. However, of the five occasions a host team has taken the lead they have equalised three times, and the team has magicked up a few results, such as the 3-0 win across town at Tottenham.

Although injured Paul Pogba cannot provide the creative spark, Shaw, Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood could be back.

About that new boss bounce…

Statistics show that more than three-quarters of coaches appointed mid-season in the Premier League earn more points per match over their first five games than the club’s previous average over the campaign.

From January this year, Thomas Tuchel raised Chelsea’s average points to 2.6 per game in his opening five fixtures from 1.6 under Frank Lampard, and from December 2018 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took United from 1.5 under Jose Mourinho to 3.0.

However, Chelsea have already beaten one newly installed boss, Patrick Vieira of Crystal Palace, and a caretaker, Newcastle’s Graeme Jones – both by three goals to nil. Michael Carrick is the 14th different manager to face the Blues in his first Premier League outing. Ten of the past 13 were beaten, with Duncan Ferguson in December 2019 the only victor.

Carrick’s most recent recollections of the Bridge will not be happy ones. He could do nothing when Cesc Fabregas threaded a ball for Diego Costa to equalise in 2016, and arrived too late to block the first of Samuel Eto’o’s three goals in a 3-1 win two years earlier.

Michael Carrick trying to get to grips with Didier Drogba in 2011

Young guns going for it

Chelsea had three Academy graduates on the Champions League scoresheet for the first time ever on Tuesday as Juve were handed their heaviest defeat in any competition for 17 years.

These boys have now been performing at an elite level in their age group for years. Three of those on the field at the end – Trevoh Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount – won the Under-19s version of the competition, as did sub Andreas Christensen, while Reece James and Callum Hudson-Odoi were finalists.

'It’s unbelievable to share the pitch with the Academy boys…it’s beautiful'

Trevoh Chalobah speaks after an emphatic win against Juventus in the Champions League.

Overtaking the Arsenal

Results last weekend allowed Chelsea to ease past Arsenal in all-time Premier League points. Only Manchester Utd have accrued more since 1992.

All-time Premier League points 1992-present
1Manchester United2,325
6Manchester City1,562

Matchweek 13 Premier League fixtures

Arsenal v Newcastle 12.30pm (BT Sport)
Crystal Palace v Aston Villa 3pm
Liverpool v Southampton 3pm
Norwich v Wolves 3pm
Brighton v Leeds 5.30pm (Sky Sports)

Brentford v Everton 2pm (Sky Sports)
Burnley v Tottenham 2pm
Leicester v Watford 2pm
Man City v West Ham 2pm
Chelsea v Man Utd 4.30pm (Sky Sports)

Premier League 2021/2022
2Manchester City117222261623
3West Ham United1172223131023
6Manchester United115241917217
8Wolverhampton Wanderers115151112-116
9Tottenham Hotspur11515916-716
10Crystal Palace113621514115
12Leicester City114341618-215
15Leeds United112541118-711
16Aston Villa113171420-610
19Newcastle United110561224-125
20Norwich City11128526-215

More from chelsea