Tradition does not bill this one as a derby, but post the entry of Roman Abramovich in the English football firmament, any Chelsea versus Manchester United encounter has got its own status as a top drawer game in the EPL.
Likewise this weekend when the two teams meet at Stamford Bridge, it will be the battle between the top two teams in the league table. We try to identify the three key aspects that might decide the outcome of the game.
The ‘new’ Chelsea: Under Roberto Di Matteo, Chelsea have changed the way from a style of play where keeping the shape and physicality were the norms to a style where fluid passing and constant attacks have gained prominence. The flip side to this is with so many Blue shirts in the opposition’s final third, any break by a United squad comprising of maestros like Rooney and Van Persie would lead to shortage of personnel in defence. The second goal that the Blues had conceded in the Donetsk fixture is a case in point.
Absence of John Terry: Even till last season, Terry’s absence would have chuffed the opposition, but not this time around. In the absence of Terry, Chelsea have 3 defenders out of the back 4 who are quite adept at scoring from set piece and also from open play, namely Cahill, Luiz and Ivanovic. No other team can boast of 3 defenders who are quite comfortable with retaining the ball in the final third!
United’s left back woes: Both Patrice Evra and the second choice left back Alexander Buttner are not in great touch at the moment and Chelsea would surely look to unleash one of Mata, Oscar or Hazard along with the tireless Ramires and Ivanovic to exploit the weakness. Of special concern is the fact that both the United left backs have been particularly lazy to drop back once they scoot up in joining the attack. It will be an interesting battle in the United left (and Chelsea right) flank on Sunday!