Chelsea welcome Man United to Stamford Bridge on Saturday ahead of an eagerly-awaited Premier League top-four clash. The tie represents Blues boss Graham Potter’s first big test against England’s elite, having already seen off Italian champions AC Milan in the Champions League.
Chelsea dropped their first league points under Potter in midweek with a draw to London rivals Brentford. The Blues sit 4th in the PL standings, just a point ahead of this weekend’s opposition.
Potter has already stamped his authority on the squad. The Englishman has gotten a tune out of Chelsea’s attackers, such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mason Mount, who were both terribly off form during the early stages of the season.
Furthermore, Chelsea have tightened up defensively. Under Thomas Tuchel, the Blues were notorious for their defence, keeping clean sheet after clean sheet early during the German’s tenure. However, the beginning of the current campaign saw the Chelsea defence look increasingly shaky with each week, as opposition sides found relative ease in breaking through their backline.
Potter’s arrival has shored up the leaky Blues defence, keeping five clean sheets on the bounce across all competitions heading into the clash with Man United.
Former Watford captain Troy Deeney heaped praise on Potter’s coaching ability in a column he wrote for The Sun. He explained how the Chelsea boss’ tactical sense is excellent, and that the only question mark currently is his ability to handle big egos.
“You can already see clearly at Chelsea under Potter their style of play. Their identity. So, there aren’t any doubts over whether he is good enough as a coach,” said Deeney in the piece. “I think, instead, we will be questioning further down the line, with the bigger names and superstars, whether he can manage the egos and keep everybody happy.”
Potter will be up against a Man United side that arguably contains the biggest ego in world football, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The five-time Ballon d’Or winner stole all the headlines in United’s 2-0 win over Spurs on Wednesday, marching down the Old Trafford tunnel long before the game’s final whistle had been blown.
As a result, United manager Erik Ten Hag has dropped Ronaldo ahead of Saturday’s fixture in West London. Potter spoke in his press conference ahead of the game about how he supports his counterpart’s decision.
“[Ten Hag] has taken his stance and sometimes you have to do that and the club have taken his support,” said the Chelsea gaffer.
“I don’t know the full story so it would be difficult for me to comment fully but from a philosophical perspective sometimes you have to make a decision you think is for the good of the group and the culture and environment you want and there might be a short term consequence and there is a consequence that can come back to you but if you think it is the right thing then you have to do it.”
United are currently five games without defeat in all competitions and sit 5th in the PL standings.
The Red Devils will be eager to build on their thoroughly dominant display against Spurs on Wednesday, playing them off the park in a 2-0 victory.
United have an impressive record against fellow ‘big six’ teams, picking up three wins from a possible four against their rivals. Furthermore, Chelsea haven’t beaten United at Stamford Bridge since November 2017, where an Alvaro Morata header sealed a 1-0 victory for the Blues.
In fact, the fixture represents the most drawn game in Premier League history as no two sides have shared the spoils more than Chelsea and Man United (25 draws).
However, Potter has already come up against Erik Ten Hag this season as the Englishman led Brighton to a 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on the opening day of the campiagn. But the United boss claims this is a different game, with different players.
“It’s nothing, I think from that game. It’s a different game , different team,” said Ten Hag in his pre-match press conference. “Yes, some different players, we are further in the process so I don’t take – of course, I know more about him and the first time he knew maybe more about me. And that is maybe an advantage because he maybe know more about Manchester United in the first game, so now I’m longer in the UK – in the Premier League – so tomorrow, good fight. But it is not a fight between managers, it is a fight between teams: Chelsea, Manchester United.”
Both Clubs will be desperate to claim the three points on Saturday considering two of the other current top six sides in the Premier League face each other in Newcastle and Spurs, meaning a win for either side may put some much desired distance between them and the chasing pack.
Chelsea 1 – 1 Man United
This game has a draw written all over it. Despite Man United’s strong record in the big games this season, Chelsea have kept five clean sheets on the spin, and will also be looking for their first statement win under Graham Potter’s management.
Given the implications of this fixture in terms of the Premier League standings due to a single point separating the teams, both managers will be aware that while this game would be massive to win, it is probably more important to avoid defeat.