The biggest game of the weekend in the English Premier League is the clash between league-leaders Manchester United at home to third-place Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sept. 18th.
United leads the league with 12 points after four straight wins to start the season. They are followed by cross-town rivals Manchester City who also have 12 points from four wins, but united has a goal difference of +15 while City’s is +12. Chelsea has 10 points from three wins and a draw. This is a crucial game even though it’s early in the season. Chelsea needs to win to keep pace while United can pull five points ahead of them with a win.
Both teams are playing good football at the moment and both had to play Champions League games during the week. United travelled to Lisbon, Portugal and played to a 1-1 draw with Benfica, while Chelsea beat German club at Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at home.
United has steamrolled over everybody so far this season except Benfica and has scored 18 goals in their four league games, with Wayne Rooney scoring eight of them. Chelsea has managed seven goals in their EPL games so far. United has pretty good depth at every position, especially striker, and the addition of winger Ashley Young has been a huge help.
Chelsea lost Didier Drogba early in the season and Fernando Torres is still firing blanks. They’re better off playing Daniel Sturridge up front with Nicolas Anelka. United will likely be without striker Danny Welbeck as well as defender Tom Cleverly. They may also have to do without captain Nemanja Vidic if he’s not healthy enough to return.
Chelsea is stronger in goal as Petr Cech has returned from injury and newcomer David De Gea hasn’t looked overly impressive for United so far. Chelsea also has a strong midfield. It’ll be interesting to see what formation new Chelsea manager Andre Villas Boas goes with in his first match against the reigning English champions. The best way to play United is to just keep attacking them and putting the pressure on their young defenders and keeper.
This will be an intriguing match even if it’s not the most exciting of the season. Chelsea has to keep an eye on Rooney after he scored a hat trick in each of his last two league games. But that means his striking partner should be able to create some room. It’d be surprising if it was a high-scoring match. Instead, expect united to win a low-scoring affair by just one goal.
United has beaten Chelsea four times in their past five meetings, including a come-from-behind 3-2 win in the Community Shield in August.
Sportsbook William Hill has the odds of a Man. United win at 4/5 and a Chelsea victory at 17/5. A draw is listed at 13/5.