On Sunday we’ll see two of the most significant teams in England go head to head at the Bridge. Chelsea will welcome Manchester United to West London in a must-win game for both sides.
Antonio Conte is experiencing pressure he’s not used to at the bridge. Despite winning the Premier League last season, the Italian’s job security is at an all-time low. Three defeats in the league mean the Blues are already 9 points off the leaders Manchester City. On top of that, the Blues have just been bullied in back to back games by Roma.
Seeing as we know Antonio Conte’s Chelsea play with aggression & intensity and José Mourinho’s United team are well disciplined, this match provides us with several key tactical match-ups. Match-ups that could work in the Blues favour if the Italian identifies them early enough.
Here’s how Chelsea can beat Manchester United.
Overload the Left Flank
If you’ve watched José Mourinho’s Manchester United team over the past year, you’ll know that he highly favours his right-back when in possession. Antonio Valencia is basically afforded the attacking freedom of a winger. That’s why in a front three of Marcus Rashford, Romelu Lukaku & Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Armenian usually plays on the right, as José knows he tends to drift into the centre. This leaves the Ecuadorian acres of space charge into. That’s why Valencia has produced 33 crosses in 10 league appearances this season.
Such space being left behind may be an aid in the attack, but in defence, it’s an avenue to be exploited. With Eden Hazard & Marcos Alonso on the left, Chelsea have the attacking tools to make use of that space.
Antonio Conte must instruct his players to overload the left half-space, meaning Alvaro Morata the central striker should also drift into the left flank. The constant bombardment of the left flank creates overloads and opportunities to cut through Manchester United’s inevitable mid to low-block.
Overpopulate the midfield
The midfield is the heartbeat & engine of any team, and in most games, it’s where the game can be lost. However, for Manchester United, their midfield is hanging by a thread. Manchester United are currently struggling for options in midfield. Ever since Paul Pogba sustained a thigh injury, the Red Devils have looked a shambles in the middle. There’s no drive, creativity or presence in the middle and that has severely stifled United’s attacking play.
An Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic midfield pivot is uninspiring as neither of them have the ability to dictate or control a game. Matic is best at shielding the back four, while Herrera is only good for pressing opposition players.
As José Mourinho doesn’t have an idea when his French star will be returning, United are stuck with this midfield for the foreseeable future, and Antonio Conte should exploit that. Chelsea usually play with a midfield pivot, but if they opted to play with a MF 3, they could overpower & outnumber Manchester United in the middle. Once United’s midfield is bypassed, the back four would be left at the mercy of Eden Hazard and Pedro.