Blog by: Shayne
As current Premier League champions Manchester United take on Chelsea in what is sure to be a match that might have consequences in this season’s title race, let’s take a look at the key battles that may define the outcome of this match.
Chelsea full-backs vs United wingers
Manchester United are a team who are known to get plenty of crosses into the box in order to cause trouble for the opposition defence. The fact that they usually play with two strikers makes it harder to defend against them.
That’s where Chelsea’s full-backs will play a key role. They will have to be solid in defence and ensure that they don’t get beaten by United’s wingers. Additionally, Cole and Ivanovic/Azpilicueta will have to ensure that they aren’t able to get into good crossing positions.
Someone like Valencia is adept at getting that half a yard of space to get in a good cross and that space is something Cole will have to prevent him from getting. A lot of United’s attacking threat comes from their wide-men so if Chelsea can shut down that particular avenue for them, they will lose quite a bit of the bite they usually possess in attack.
Michael Carrick vs Chelsea’s advanced playmaker
Bear in mind that when I use the words “advanced playmaker”, I’m not referring to Juan Mata, rather whoever starts in that particular position. Mata himself will probably start out wide so that means either Oscar or De Bruyne will be deployed as the number 10.
Whoever does start, Carrick will no doubt, have the unenviable job of ensuring that he doesn’t let that player influence the game too much. Carrick’s defensive capabilities are often overshadowed by his impressive ball distribution and tidy passing, but his defensive work-rate is nothing short of excellent.
He will have to continuously drop deep in order to help the defence in keeping the main central attacking midfielder in Chelsea’s talented attacking trio at bay. Whether or not he succeeds in this particular job might just be the difference between a win and a loss for United.
United’s right-back vs Eden Hazard
Rafael, currently United’s best right-back, will be unavailable for the match due to an injury, which means that either Phil Jones or Chris Smalling will be used in that particular position.
Both can do a decent job at right-back. However, keeping Eden Hazard quiet won’t be an easy job at all. The tricky Belgian was a nightmare for most right-backs he faced last season, even Pablo Zabaleta, arguably the League’s best right-back at the moment.
While Hazard hasn’t been Chelsea’s most influential player in their first two matches, he’s the type of player who can turn a game around on his own. Whoever does play at right-back will have his work cut out for him.
Robin van Persie vs John Terry
Robin van Persie has picked up where he left off last season, scoring two fantastic goals against Swansea in a 1-4 win. The Dutchman is quite easily United’s best player at the moment and it will be John Terry’s job to make sure he doesn’t get too involved in the game.
Van Persie isn’t a traditional poacher and often drops slightly deep in order to collect passes and create chances for himself.
Therefore, Terry will have to work hard to ensure that he doesn’t get enough space to get a shot off, because that’s all he seems to need these days. Cahill will be able to help, but given his inability to close down a man plus his tendency to make basic mistakes, it’d be wiser if John Terry did the hard work to ensure that van Persie doesn’t weave his magic.
David Moyes vs Jose Mourinho
Funnily enough, the biggest battle of the match will be taking place off the field. Both managers will want to win this game for different reasons; Moyes is under massive pressure after succeeding Sir Alex Ferguson, while Mourinho will be desperate to ensure a win against the team who, he probably considers the biggest threat to his Chelsea side.
Mourinho has been playing mind-games with Moyes all summer long; will the mind games break Moyes or simply spur him on to do his best to beat Chelsea? Only time will tell.