Fifth will attempt to overtake fourth in a tantalizing Stamford Bridge battle on Saturday evening, as Chelsea and Manchester United renew hostilities in the Premier League.
The Blues were held to a 0-0 draw by Brentford in midweek, while Erik ten Hag’s team convincingly put Tottenham Hotspur to the sword in a 2-0 victory.
Preview: Chelsea vs. Man Utd – prediction, team news, lineups
Only a few days after Kepa Arrizabalaga had to save Chelsea’s bacon in their win over Aston Villa, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper came to the fore once more at the Gtech Community Stadium, as Chelsea’s five-game winning run came to an abrupt end.
Kepa’s compatriot and opposite number David Raya was also on top form as the West London derby ended without the net rippling once, but Potter’s side still remain in the driving seat for Champions League football amid a particularly resilient defensive streak.
While upcoming opponents Man United did collect all three points in their midweek game, one for Chelsea was enough to keep them in the fourth and final Champions League spot in the table, now three points behind Tottenham Hotspur with a game in hand on their capital counterparts.
Defeat for Chelsea would knock them out of the Champions League berths here, but Potter’s side welcome Man United to Stamford Bridge having kept a clean sheet in each of their last five Premier League games, and they have only shipped a mere two in all tournaments since the 47-year-old took the reins.
Furthermore, the hosts are yet to taste defeat at Stamford Bridge this term and have won each of their last three Premier League games at their West London home, but Man United have demonstrated a penchant for performances against Big Six sides from the capital under Ten Hag.
Neither Liverpool nor Arsenal had Man United’s number upon their visits to Old Trafford earlier this season, and while Tottenham fans may have been revelling in their rivals’ defeats, they left Old Trafford with their tails between their legs as Ten Hag’s side dominated from start to finish.
After being frustrated by an on-song Hugo Lloris during the first half, Man United earned the breakthrough in fortuitous circumstances in the 47th minute – Fred’s effort took a significant deflection off Ben Davies into the bottom corner – but there was nothing lucky about Bruno Fernandes’s brilliant second.
Many were quick to hail that 2-0 win as Man United’s best performance yet under Ten Hag, whose side pressed relentlessly throughout the 90, and the fifth-placed Red Devils would break into the top four should they make it two victories on the bounce this weekend.
Man United have now recorded four wins from their last five in all tournaments and have impressively won nine out of 12 since that 4-0 defeat to Brentford. While Chelsea’s clean sheet haul is more noteworthy, the visitors can also boast three consecutive shutouts in their last three games.
Fireworks may not fly between these two giants of the English game, though, as each of the last four Premier League fixtures between Chelsea and Man United has ended in a draw, and the Blues are aiming to consign a paltry tally of one win from their last 11 against the Red Devils to history.
Chelsea Premier League form:
Chelsea form (all competitions):
Manchester United Premier League form:
Manchester United form (all competitions):
Thiago Silva and Hakim Ziyech were both given the green light to make the bench for Chelsea’s showdown with Brentford, but Wesley Fofana (knee), Reece James (knee) and N’Golo Kante (thigh) will all miss out again.
Fears of another England injury were also raised when Conor Gallagher came off after 15 minutes on Wednesday, but Potter has since revealed that his withdrawal was illness-related. While he has been training normally since, Mateo Kovacic can expect a recall after a bright substitute display.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Raheem Sterling can also expect to be drafted back into the side for Armando Broja and Kai Havertz, while Ben Chilwell ought to return on the left after being handed a complete rest in midweek.
Man United’s win over Tottenham was somewhat soured by images of Cristiano Ronaldo walking down the tunnel before the full-time whistle had gone, and it has now been reported that the 37-year-old left the stadium entirely after trudging off the sidelines.
Ronaldo has been dropped from the squad for this game, and the Dutchman still has a hefty injury list of Axel Tuanzebe (unspecified), Brandon Williams (unspecified), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (muscle), Harry Maguire (hamstring), Donny van de Beek (muscle) and Anthony Martial (back) to contend with.
Martial, Wan-Bissaka and Maguire are the closest to returning but will not be ready just yet, and Ten Hag also welcomed Christian Eriksen back from illness on Wednesday, but Fred put in an exemplary showing against Spurs and will not lose his place without a fight.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; Azpilicueta, Silva, Chalobah; Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kovacic, Chilwell; Sterling, Mount; Aubameyang
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Shaw; Casemiro, Fred; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford
We say: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United
A side more clinical than Aston Villa or Brentford would have broken Chelsea’s streak of clean sheets by now, and Man United will feel confident of doing that here, despite taking a multitude of efforts to finally get the better of Lloris on Wednesday.
The Etihad aside, performances in big games have been Ten Hag’s bread and butter so far, but with Potter making a few key alterations and Wednesday’s exertions taking their toll on Man United in particular, we can envisage a third successive 1-1 draw in this fixture.