Friday, 9 November 2018

Chelsea vs Everton Match Preview (08/11/18): Blues to Spit Out Homesick Toffees

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We got exactly what we wanted from Group L of the Europa League.

Progression to the knockout phase of the competition was the bare minimum of course, but to achieve that with two rounds of matches to spare is the ultimate reward for Maurizio Sarri taking the tournament seriously.

Now, he can rest players and get some game-time into squad members against PAOK (home) and MOL Vidi (away).

Early qualification was secured with a 1-0 win over BATE Borisov, who once again proved themselves to be game but limited opposition.

On the mark was Olivier Giroud, who rose to head home Emerson’s cross and give himself a real bolt of confidence heading into the second third of the campaign.

“I'm pleased for him,” Sarri said afterwards. “I know strikers want to score. And so for his confidence, I think it's very important.

“I don't want him to be worried about scoring, because for us he's very important, a very, very useful player for the team.”

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The Frenchman took the headlines then, but the bigger story was the return of Eden Hazard to the starting line-up.

The Belgian had missed the last three games, by and large, with a back injury, and so it was a relief to see him get through an hour or so against BATE. That little sharpener should stand him in good stead for a domestic return on Sunday.

Everton are the visitors to the Bridge on Remembrance Sunday, and while the Toffees are certainly a capable outfit they do seem to struggle somewhat on their travels, with only one win in five on the road this term.

As such, we are hoping that the Blues can land yet another win to maintain the pressure on Manchester City at the summit of the division.

Chelsea Team News

The good news with the approach that Maurizio Sarri has taken in the Europa League means that we always head into Premier League games in decent shape.

The first choice back four all got a rest on Thursday, and so messrs Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger and Alonso will all come back into the side in front of the impressive Kepa between the sticks.

Cesc Fabregas has been ill this week, and that kept him out of the BATE Borisov game with Jorginho deputising.

Whether the Spaniard is fit for Sunday is touch and go, so we expect Ross Barkley, who was voted Man of the Match against the Belarussians, to continue alongside N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic.

Hazard and Willian were both given lighter duties in midweek, so they will surely start on the flanks, while even the temptation to start Giroud, back among the goals, must be tempered to enable the flourishing Alvaro Morata to come into the side once more.

Chelsea vs Everton Head to Head

These two sides have been almost perennial top flight outfits in the past century or so, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that this will be the 180th competitive meeting between them.

We have the upper hand with 72 wins to 54 defeats (and 53 draws), and that’s a theme that tends to preside in the modern era, with Chelsea winning 11 of the last 17 encounters with the Toffees (W11 D2 L4).

Everton haven’t won at Stamford Bridge since 2011, and last season they lost twice in the space of eight weeks at our home ground; 0-2 in the Premier League followed by 1-2 in the Carabao Cup.

How the Match Will Be Won

There won’t be any surprises from Chelsea here; why change a winning formula?

We will pass the ball, dominate possession and look to create openings in wide areas courtesy of Hazard, Willian and the overlapping full backs.

Marco Silva hailed Everton’s 3-1 win over Brighton last weekend as their ‘best performance of the season), and yet these soft Toffees could only muster three shots on target during the game.

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They will play with a fairly traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, with Seamus Coleman and Lucas Digne offering width from full back and Michael Keane and Yerry Mina, making his first start for the club with Kurt Zouma barred from playing against his parent club, in the middle.

The midfield will be anchored by Andre Gomes and Idrissa Gana Gueye, with Gylfi Sigurdsson as the old-fashioned number ten in front of them.

Theo Walcott and Bernard will probe down the wings, while Richarlison – assuming he shakes off an ankle injury – will lead the line.

That’s all well and good, but with one win five away from home Silva clearly hasn’t found a working strategy for his side on their travels.

They lost 0-2 at Arsenal and 1-2 at Manchester United, in addition to dropping points at Wolves and Bournemouth.

Everton are a functional yet hardly life-affirming football team in their present guise, and you would have to back Chelsea to find a way past them on Sunday.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

BATE Borisov vs Chelsea Match Preview (08/11/18): Blues to Advance in Style in Belarus

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We had wondered in last week’s preview of the Crystal Palace game just how long it would take us to make the all-important breakthrough.

Half an hour or so, all told, when Alvaro Morata – confidence seemingly returning – slotted home from Pedro’s pass.

But as we predicted, this was not an easy game, with the Eagles making life plenty difficult for us despite our overwhelming occupation of the ball.

Roy Hodgson’s side drew level in the second half when Andros Townsend got clear and fired home impressively, and at that point we really did need some divine intervention to find that second goal.

It came from the garden of Eden – well, his right foot actually, as Hazard’s introduction from the substitute’s bench brought an instant return. His free kick eventually found its way to Morata, who drilled home.

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We managed to complete the scoring when Pedro finished so emphatically from Marcos Alonso’s pass, and while it was tremendously hard work we still found a way to claim all three points against a stubborn Palace side. Victory took us above Liverpool on goal difference, and two points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

Our next Premier League outing comes on Sunday when we entertain Everton in the last game before the next international break, but prior to that there’s the matter of a trip to Belarus on Thursday to take care of.

A point or better against BATE Borisov will secure our passage into the knockout phase of the Europa League, and you sense that Maurizio Sarri will be desperate to clear that particular bridge at the first available opportunity.

Chelsea Team News

The manager has continued to field strong sides in this competition, and while he will surely take it easy with some there will still be game time for others.

Kepa has typically been the first choice keeper in the Europa League, so he may well start behind the rotated back four of, from right to left, Zappacosta, Christensen, Cahill and Emerson.

Getting the balance right in midfield will be key, and the fact that Ross Barkley was subbed off after 64 minutes suggests that either he or replacement Mateo Kovacic will join Cesc Fabregas and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the middle of the park.

Will Sarri treat Hazard with kid gloves? There’s no real reason for him to start against BATE, and while he is likely to travel with the squad you would wager that Pedro and Willian are better options unless the Belgian’s skills are needed to break the deadlock late on.

Up front, the manager has a tough decision to make. Does he continue with Morata, who is starting to get among the goals again and who will want to keep his hot run going, or bring in the fit-again Olivier Giroud?

BATE Borisov vs Chelsea Head to Head

Chelsea’s 3-1 win over BATE Borisov a fortnight ago was the first meeting between the two sides.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s hat-trick did the damage in a match in which we won the shots on target count by a commanding 9-1.

How the Match Will Be Won

There wasn’t a huge amount about BATE Borisov at the Bridge the other week that suggests we need to be fearful ahead of the meeting in Belarus on Thursday.

They tried to pass the ball around, but lacked the class to really make any inroads into our defence, and but for a bit of luck and some tigerish defending our 3-1 margin of victory would surely have been greater.

The boys from Belarus lined up in a compact 4-3-3, with former Arsenal man Aleksandr Hleb the focal point in the middle of the park.

In truth, they were simply trying to limit the damage by going man for man in the middle of the park, and it remains to be seen if they adopt a more progressive, front foot approach on home soil.

They were stuffed 1-4 by PAOK in their other home match in Group L so far, and so perhaps we need to focus less on them and more on what we do!

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The great thing about this Chelsea squad is that even with rotation, it’s still a tremendously strong set of players.

The back four is strong, and a midfield three of Kovacic, Fabregas and Loftus-Cheek is strong enough to grace any side in the Europa League.

Goals are not in short supply regardless of the front three Sarri names, and so the only conclusion we can draw is that Chelsea should win this game with the same level of comfort with which they triumphed in the reverse fixture.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace Match Preview (04/11/18): Eagles Preyed Upon By Bloodthirsty Blues

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It’s been a pretty good week for Chelsea FC by all accounts!

After extending our unbeaten run to ten in the Premier League, victory over Derby in the Carabao Cup in midweek sends us into the quarter-finals of that competition as well. A win over Crystal Palace on Sunday would round things off rather nicely!

The 3-2 triumph over the Rams was a strange old affair, but a win is a win and when it keeps our unbeaten run going who are we to argue.

All five goals came in the first half, with two of those own goals contributed by Derby players: Richard Keogh and the on-loan Fikayo Tomori, who did not enjoy the happiest of returns to Stamford Bridge.

After an early strike from Jack Marriott, the Rams fought back again through Martyn Waghorn, but Cesc Fabregas settled the tie before half-time with a trademark cool finish.

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David Nugent hit the post late on for the visitors, and so there was a sense of relief when the referee blew the full time whistle shortly after.

Victory takes us into the last eight of the Carabao Cup, where we have been drawn at home against Bournemouth.

Attention turns back to league matters and the visit of Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s men have actually beaten us in two of our last three meetings, and so we simply cannot afford to rest on our laurels when the Eagles come to town on Sunday.

Chelsea Team News

Maurizio Sarri fielded a surprisingly strong side against Derby on Wednesday, with Willian, Alvaro Morata, Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante all playing 90 minutes.

It hints that Eden Hazard will be fit to start on Sunday, and also that Ross Barkley will be given another 90 minutes as his development into an outstanding midfield player continues under Sarri.

Otherwise, Kepa will come in for Willy Caballero between the sticks and the traditional back four – Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger and Alonso – will be reunited.

Barkley will join Jorginho and, presumably, Kante in midfield, with Hazard to the left and Willian, if his legs can handle a third game in a week, on the right.

Through the middle, Giroud might get the nod despite struggling with a niggling injury – unless Morata recovers well from the Derby outing.

Chelsea vs Crystal Palace Head to Head

As mentioned, Palace actually have a pretty good record against us.

They have won on two of their last three trips to the Bridge. The first came in August 2015, when a Radamel Falcao goal – remember him! – was cancelled out by strikes from Bakary Sako and Joel Ward.

Then, in April 2017, they triumphed by the same scoreline, with Zaha and Benteke doing the damage for the visitors.

We gained revenge back in March with a 2-1 win of our own, but those former defeats – allied to yet another 1-2 reverse at Selhurst Park in October 2017 – suggests we have reasons to go overboard in our confidence on Sunday.

How the Match Will Be Won

The thing about this Crystal Palace side is that, without Christian Benteke, they lack a genuine frontman to act as an ‘out ball’.

Wilf Zaha is a brilliant performer and a willing combatant when leading the line, but he tends to get isolated and that is reflected in Palace’s ‘goals for’ column so far this season: with just seven in ten, only Newcastle, Huddersfield and Southampton have notched fewer.

The challenge, as is the case against any Hodgson-led side, is to break down their well-drilled defensive lines, which starts with the back four and continues with the defence-orientated central midfielders in front of them.

That’s okay though, with Hazard returning and both Willian and Morata in sublime form at present. Kante will provide pace and directness from midfield, with Barkley joining him in albeit more technical fashion.

With Alonso and Azpilicueta marauding down their respective flanks, it will be something akin to the blue arrows when we spring forward.

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Our natural, possession-based style should also help to draw the Palace players out of their positions, and as long as we move the ball around quickly – rather than more pedestrianised, side to side football – we can get in behind them.

Zaha will be a nuisance in attack. He’s got such good feet, and a willingness to carry the ball, that Rudiger and Luiz cannot afford to rest for a single minute when the Ivorian is around. Happily, he won’t have too much support around him.

And so we’re expecting a Chelsea victory. It may take a while to fashion the necessary chances, but there’s no reason why our sublime passing won’t find a way through an admittedly well-organised Palace rearguard.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Chelsea vs Derby County Match Preview (31/10/18): Blues to Avoid Halloween Horror Show

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It is very satisfying to be a Chelsea FC supporter right now, and what a nice feeling it is to be able to type that.

We are playing some sublime football under Maurizio Sarri, and even without talisman Eden Hazard we are still capable of putting opponents to the sword.

The latest victims were Burnley, who we blitzed 4-0 on Sunday in a show of genuine attacking brilliance.

Goals from Ross Barkley, Alvaro Morata, Willian and Ruben Loftus-Cheek – his fourth of the week, will take the headlines, but in truth this was an outstanding performance from front to back.

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We restricted the Clarets to a solitary shot on target while crafting eight of our own. Morata looked reborn in attack, and could have had a hat-trick but for misfortune and some outstanding goalkeeping. Behind him Willian and Barkley, in particular, linked up superbly, and it would be fair to conclude that the 4-0 scoreline did not flatter us one iota.

Onwards we go into a new week, and one in which we will be looking to come out of the other side of with our unbeaten run intact. On Sunday we host Crystal Palace at the Bridge, but before then on Wednesday we have an EFL Cup date with Derby County to contend with.

Super Frankie Lampard is doing some excellent work at the Rams, and Mason Mount’s call-up to the England squad had plenty to do with Lamps’ tuition of his midfield protégé.

Derby have really impressed this term, particularly in the past couple of weeks, and their vibrant attacking play will ask questions of what will surely be a much-changed Blues side in midweek.

Chelsea Team News

It would seem as though Hazard is on the mend, but that the midweek game may come too soon for the Belgian, who is struggling with a back injury.

“I want Hazard in every match if it's possible because we have a lot of very good players but Hazard, I think, is something different,” Sarri said.

“I am very happy because the team was able to score seven goals in two matches without Hazard. It's a very good sign. I want Eden as soon as possible. I don't know for Wednesday, but I hope for Sunday.”

Another player on whom we await further details is Pedro, who was substituted after half an hour against Burnley. It later emerged that the Spaniard was struggling with stomach cramps, although the insinuation is that he should be fine for the Derby game.

Mind you, Sarri will surely want to find a way in which to get the in-form Barkley and Loftus-Cheek into his side, and so perhaps Pedro will start on the wing with Willian given the night off.

Mateo Kovacic sat out the Burnley game – he will surely come in against the Rams – while there’s a chance that Sarri will field his complete second choice backline.

Chelsea vs Derby County Head to Head

Given that Derby’s occupation of the top flight has been rather sparse in recent years, it will come as no surprise to learnt hat our two meetings with the Rams in the past decade have both come in cup competitions.

The Blues triumphed in both: 2-0 in the FA Cup back in January 2014, and 3-1 in the League Cup in the December of that year.

Overall, the head-to-head is a close 39 wins to 38 in Chelsea’s favour, but don’t forget that Derby have had periods of excellence – particularly in the 1940s and 70s – which skews the overall picture.

How the Match Will Be Won

The on-loan duo Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori will be allowed to take their places in the Derby team against us on Wednesday.

It will give the Stamford Bridge faithful an opportunity to see the midfield schemer and the athletic centre half in close quarters. They are both ones to watch, that’s for sure.

It will be tough on the legs, though, with this being Derby’s fourth game in the space of eleven days. Okay, so Chelsea have had an equally draining period of league, continental and cup action, but clearly our squad is rather deeper than the Rams’.

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So we don’t quite know how Derby will set up, with a tough Championship encounter against Birmingham to come on Saturday. Which match will take precedence?

What we do know is that Lampard will probably set up his side in a 4-5-1 system that becomes 4-3-3 when attacking. The wide men, principally Martyn Waghorn and Tom Lawrence, will filter inside to support a lone frontman, while in midfield Mount and Harry Wilson are normally given licence to roam with Tom Huddlestone sitting centrally behind them.

They are a side that is comfortable playing on the counter attack, and that will suit them against our possession-based style.

But we are expected to win the match by all parties, really, and while Derby will put up a good fight the Blues’ class will surely tell in the end.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Burnley vs Chelsea Match Preview (28/10/18): Blues Prepared for Battle of Turf Moor

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There’s knocking on the door, and then there’s crashing through it headfirst.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s hat-trick against BATE Borisov on Thursday serves as a timely reminder of the England international’s talents, and while Maurizio Sarri is fairly certain about his first choice midfield trio, Loftus-Cheek’s forward surges could become crucial to the Blues in matches where they are finding opponents rather tricky to break down.

Like Burnley, on Sunday, for example. The Clarets are well drilled under Sean Dyche, an breaking through a packed midfield will require ingenuity, sheer force of will or a little bit of both.

The 3-1 victory over the Belarussians was as comfortable as it gets, and while the scoreline doesn’t necessarily reflect as such it shouldn’t go unmentioned how well the BATE keeper played. He made great saves from Davide Zappacosta and Olivier Giroud to keep the scoreboard respectable. With 69% possession and ten shots in target, our dominance cannot be questioned.

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Indeed, it bodes well when the worst thing your manager can moan about is shipping a consolation goal. “When we conceded the goal I didn't like it very much. I don't know why but I prefer the clean sheet,” Sarri said.

“We played very well for 65 minutes and not very well in the last 20 minutes. It was a good match.”

The win leaves us six points clear at the top of Group L after MOL Vidi surprisingly defeated PAOK, and so even a point in our next outing would all but see us through to the knockout stage of the Europa League.

And that’s thirteen games unbeaten, all in all, this term now under Sarri. Let’s hope the lads can make it fourteen in Lancashire on Sunday.

Chelsea Team News

The big news is that Eden Hazard is suffering with a painful back injury at the moment.

The Belgian has missed training all week and sat out the BATE tie, with Sarri saying in his press conference that ‘he [Hazard] has a back problem’.

“We are trying to solve the problem for Sunday, [but] I think it is not very easy [for him to recover in time].”

That will set alarm bells ringing, although Pedro – who played an hour on Thursday – is ready to deputise.

Loftus-Cheek’s heroics are unlikely to be enough to earn himself a place in the starting eleven at Turf Moor.

There could well be a change in midfield, however, as Mateo Kovacic played 77 minutes against BATE on Thursday.

The Croat is struggling to compete 90 minutes after an exhausting summer at the World Cup, and it is quite possible that Ross Barkley will deputise alongside N’Golo Kante and Jorginho against Burnley.

Otherwise, Sarri will be able to field his first choice defence, with Alvaro Morata again likely to get the nod in attack.

Burnley vs Chelsea Head to Head

Those of you with decent memories will remember the first game of last season, when as champions we were brought back down to earth with a bump in a 2-3 defeat to the Clarets.

We gained a semblance of revenge at Turf Moor later in the season with a 2-1 victory, an that closed the overall gap to 35-38 in Burnley’s favour in the head-to-heads.

Of course, most of those losses came in the first half of the 20th century when Burnley were an outstanding side, and in modern times – since the Clarets first reached the Premier League back in 2009 – our results against the Lancastrians read W5 D2 L1.

How the Match Will Be Won

The good thing about playing Burnley is that you know there aren’t going to be any surprises.

They will play a narrow game with plenty of bodies behind the ball, an at least one strong, combative striker like Sam Vokes through the middle.

A tight midfield three – probably messrs Hendrick, Cork and Defour – will work hard and minimise the amount of space given to their counterparts wearing blue.

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They will double up on the flanks too, with the wingers – presumably Lennon and Gudmundsson – tracking back and supporting their full backs.

One bit of good news is that with patient attacking play, the Clarets can be breached. Manchester City put five past them last week, and at other times this season they have conceded four against Fulham and three against Watford.

That suggests that if we play our natural attacking game, we should be able to create plenty of opportunities – Hazard or no Hazard.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Chelsea vs BATE Borisov Match Preview (25/10/18): Blues Eye Knockouts Against the Boys from Belarus

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Saturday’s game against Manchester United had everything….apart from the result, that is.
We dominated the first period, and took a deserved lead when Antonio Rudiger lost Paul Pogba at a corner and powered a header home.

But United came out swinging in the second half, and a pair of goals from Anthony Martial appeared to have taken all three points.

In the dying embers of injury time a cross was slung in and after David Luiz hit the post and Rudiger was denied by David de Gea, Ross Barkley smashed home to secure a point for the Blues which, on the balance of play, was probably deserved.

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There was still time for some antics on the touchline as our technical assistant Marco Ianni danced a little jig of celebration in front of Jose Mourinho. It was perhaps a bit over the top, but then Mourinho is hardly a stranger to shows of exaggerated emotion himself.

Onwards and upwards to the Europa League on Thursday, when we welcome Belarussian outfit BATE Borisov to the Bridge. Victory would take us on to nine points with three wins from three, and that would surely be enough to see us into the knockout stage. At that point we could rest key players for these midweek games, which would be a huge bonus for our Premier League efforts.

So there is plenty to sink our teeth into on Thursday against a solid enough opponent but one that is there for the taking nonetheless.

Chelsea Team News

What we have learned from Chelsea’s adventures in the Europa League so far this term is that Maurizio Sarri is taking the competition seriously.

In the opener against PAOK he fielded a really strong side, and against MOL Vidi last time out there was plenty of class on show once more.

The Italian will make plenty of changes against BATE, you would fancy, with a completely different back four on show, should he repeat the selection of that MOL Vidi encounter.

A midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic – who was subbed off after 69 minutes against United – and Ross Barkley is top drawer, while in attack we could see Pedro coming in from the right, Ruben Loftus-Cheek from the left in a role he occupied with some success for Crystal Palace last term, and the seemingly-deposed Olivier Giroud through the middle.

Chelsea vs BATE Borisov Head to Head

It may come as no surprise to learn that Chelsea and BATE Borisov have never met before.

We do have some kind of frame of reference, however, in that they were drawn in the same Europa League group as Arsenal last season, losing 2-4 and 0-6.

How the Match Will Be Won

We don’t know a huge amount about BATE Borisov, although we do know they are handy enough given that they have won the Belarussian league 12 years in a row.

Okay, so the standard is poor, but such success breeds confidence, and they will travel to London without fear.

And they won’t park the bus, either. Their results in last season’s Europa League – 0-6 at Arsenal, 2-5 at Koln, 1-1 at Red Star – don’t strike you as those of a side that will sit back and hope for the best.

They gave PSV Eindhoven a good game in Champions League qualifying in the summer too, going down 2-3 on home soil.

If the visitors do play on the front foot they should play their part in an entertaining contest, although of course an open game suits our style. We will spray the ball around, and if we can pull the BATE defensive players out of position then there will be tons of space to exploit.

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Assuming we are near the money with our line-up prediction above, there’s goals in this team particularly from the midfield and front three, with Victor Moses also around to inject some pace into proceedings. His trickery down the right, and crosses to the head of Giroud, could be one route to goal.

Chelsea’s biggest enemy on nights like these is complacency, but we haven’t shown any in the competition so far, and with a decent prize on offer that will benefit our overall season if we get three points here, we would expect a focused and committed display from the Blues.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Chelsea vs Manchester United Match Preview (20/10/18): Blues to Hammer Final Nail in Mourinho’s Man Utd Coffin?

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The international break is a nervous old time for club managers.

They must sit by the phone and dread it ringing with the news that one of their key players has been injured while representing their country.

Happily, the good news is that on this occasion at least, Chelsea appear to have escaped scot-free from the international fixtures without any major injury headaches.

That means that Maurizio Sarri can focus on selecting his strongest eleven, just about, for this fixture against Manchester United.

It’s a game swimming with narratives. Clearly, even at this juncture, any points accrued against rivals for a top four finish are essential, and the Blues must be confident against a United side lacking in confidence and struggling with a few injuries.

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And then, of course, there’s the Special One himself. Old Jose was given the dreaded vote of confidence prior to the break, and while his side signed off with a win lest we forget they were 0-2 down to Newcastle on home soil.

You wonder, mischievously, if defeat on Saturday lunchtime might spell the end of Mourinho in Manchester.

And so Saturday’s encounter could be a cagey old affair, with Chelsea enjoying the bulk of possession and United sitting deep with bus parked and handbrake on as tight as it will go.

It won’t be one for the neutral, but there’s three key points in the offing for Chelsea.

Chelsea Team News

As mentioned, there are no new injury concerns for Sarri to mull over, and the only first team regular on the treatment table is Antonio Rudiger, who you may recall picked up a hamstring strain in the dying embers of the win over Southampton.

The German stayed behind to get treatment during the international break, and he probably won’t be risked against the Red Devils.

That leaves a straight choice between Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen at centre back, with Cahill’s greater physicality possibly getting the nod as we look to shackle Romelu Lukaku.

Various players have been off on international duty around Europe, and so we don’t have to worry about jet lag. Our only South American stars, Willian and David Luiz, did not travel with the squad and instead went off on holiday to Dubai together. Nice work if you can get it!

Chelsea vs Manchester United Head to Head

With 180 prior meetings in the bank, you might think we’d have a clear understanding of who the better team was, historically, between Chelsea and Manchester United.

Yes, United have the better record dating back to the early 1900s, but when it really counts – in more recent times – the Blues have had the upper hand.

If we look at the last 15 encounters, we note that Chelsea have lost just twice. Extend that to matches played at Stamford Bridge, and our record reads a rather rosy W7 D1 L0.

The last time we met was in the FA Cup final back in May, where Eden Hazard’s penalty was enough to secure a trophy in Antonio Conte’s final game as manager.

How the Match Will Be Won

Just how will Mourinho set up his Manchester United side? That seems to hold the key to how this match will pan out.

We think he will try to bully the midfield battle by picking a physical trio: Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Paul Pogba. The object here will be to stop our boys from playing, and dish out a few bruises along the way.

It’s possible that Alexis Sanchez has won his trust after netting the dramatic last minute winner against Newcastle, and he may start from one flank and Anthony Martial, who also scored against the Magpies, on the other.

One battle that excites us as Chelsea supporters is Eden Hazard against either Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young down our left flank. Neither of that pair are the most rock-steady defenders, and can you see Sanchez or Martial tracking back to offer support?

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Hazard was fairly subdued for Belgium during the international break, but that’s fine by us: he should have plenty of gas in the tank for this match instead.

This won’t be pretty for those watching on Sky Sports, with Chelsea recycling possession and United looking to sit deep and hit on the break with Lukaku pulling out to the right and aided by supporting winger.

But keep an eye on Hazard here. He may play quite wide in order to stay clear of the midfield maelstrom and isolate himself against United’s right back. It’s a tactic which may make all the difference in a tight and conservative affair.