On Sunday, two of the biggest teams in England will do battle at the Theatre of Dreams. José Mourinho’s Manchester United will welcome Antonio Conte’s Chelsea to Old Trafford, in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. Such big games are only decided by the finest of margins.
Here’s where Manchester United vs. Chelsea will be won or lost.
Who can be more defensively sound?
Despite their war of words in the media, Antonio Conte and José Mourinho are two peas in a pod. They’re both high-profile managers that seek to sure up the defence before addressing the attack. Sunday’s game will be no different as the two will seek to shut the other out and then form a game plan from there.
José Mourinho’s tactics have always focused on the mistakes of other teams. He sets up his team up in a way that forces opposition players to make loose passes. It’s those loose passes that Mourinho uses to attack through. Antonio Conte’s tactics usually rely more on cutting off passing lanes and a high-intensity pressing system. Such philosophies typically cancel each other out, and it just depends on who can execute theirs in a more disciplined fashion.
This defensive mindset results in a reluctance to hold onto possession, as both managers feel when they have possession, they’re susceptible to making mistakes. That’s why the two teams have only averaged 55 % & 53.6% possession in the league, compared to the 66.5% of Manchester City.
Battle for Midfield Superiority
It’s no secret that both these teams have been experiencing midfield problems this season. For Manchester United, the performances of Paul Pogba have been a hot talking point. In his defence, the Frenchman has directly contributed to 12 goals in 17 appearances. That’s a fair return, but the 24-year-old’s failure to impress in big games has been at the centre of the criticism against him.
Many have claimed that José hasn’t played Pogba enough in his preferred role of box-to-box; instead, he’s been used as a reserved central midfielder with more defensive duties than attacking ones. The same can be said for a fellow Frenchman at Chelsea.
Tiémoué Bakayoko has been branded as one of the worst signings this season. His performances have been ill-disciplined, rash and overall, ineffective. However, his physical traits are exceptional, and his presence will be missed on Sunday. The 23-year-old missed the Barcelona game through injury and is set to be absent at Old Trafford.
Instead, Antonio Conte will either deploy Danny Drinkwater or Cesc Fàbregas alongside N’golo Kante. Drinkwater would offer more protection, while Fàbregas would give the Blues more of a counter-attacking threat.
Which striker will turn up?
The two biggest striker acquisitions of the 2017/18 summer were Álvaro Morata and Romelu Lukaku. In 38 appearances this season, Romelu Lukaku has scored 20 goals, while his Spanish rival has scored 12 in 33 games. Both strikers have received ample amounts of criticism this season, but in the last game between these two, it was a header by Álvaro Morata that decided the game. This time all eyes will be on Romelu Lukaku to win a big game for this new club.