WILL Dyer (@w2dyer) picks apart the huge clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on Easter Sunday.
Manchester United v Chelsea | Easter Sunday 16:00 | Sky Sports 1
At time of writing, Chelsea are seven points clear with seven games to go. That is likely to be hacked down to four points by Tottenham before the Blues kick-off though, just as it was last weekend.
The added pressure didn’t get to Antonio Conte’s men last time out but then again they weren’t facing a side unbeaten in 21 league games.
The last team to beat Manchester United in the league was indeed Chelsea, 4-0 at Stamford Bridge way back in October.
Since then, the Red Devils have lost just three games in all competitions but one of those defeats was again at the hands of the Easter Sunday opposition, a 1-0 reverse at the Bridge in the quarter-final of the FA Cup.
There’s no denying for Jose Mourinho, that he has failed to get the better of his old club but he’s also yet to face them on home turf.
The FA Cup exit was largely down to idiocy from Ander Herrera; United never looked like conceding before his quick-fire second yellow and the 4-0 hammering in October came before Mou had found his best back four.
Unfortunately for the Old Trafford faithful, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are expected to be out for another month, the former had built a strong partnership with Marcus Rojo. However, the return of Eric Bailly has more than papered the cracks and if he and Rojo can remain fit for the rest of the season, United will continue to be incredibly tough to beat.
Back in October, the Portuguese boss was fielding Daley Blind at left-back but he’s since come to his senses and the combinations of Antonio Valencia, Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw have been fruitful. Valencia in particular has been a rock and deserves a lot of credit for his adaptability over the last eight years.
As for the West Londoners, a win here would all but clinch the title for them, this being their last league fixture against a top-six club. Conte will obviously be hopeful of the three points but I don’t think he’ll want his men to push too hard for it.
When Mourinho was at the Chelsea helm he would almost always set out for a draw in an away fixture against a top club, it was the bedrock for his three Premier League titles. I anticipate a similar kind of approach from his successor.
The Blues haven’t lost any of their last 12 meetings with Man United but they’ve drawn four of their last five at Old Trafford. The ‘Theatre of Dreams’ has seen more draws than any other ground in the division this season, nine of United’s 16 home games have ended all square.
Everything is pointing towards the draw, for me.
This fixture also sees two of the Premier League’s three best defensive records go head to head. Chelsea concede on average just 0.81 goals per-game (GPG), whilst the Red Devils have an even better record, conceding just 0.80 GPG. It points towards a low-scoring game.
In fact, the last four Premier League meetings between these two in Manchester have all gone Under 2.5 Goals, with a total of just three goals scored. The magnitude of this game in the title race cannot be underestimated and I think Conte will be happy to settle for a draw as to not erode their lead or hurt their confidence.
Combine their expected approach to the game with the stats and recent head to heads and my selection has to be Draw and Under 2.5 goals at a best price of 29/10 with BetStars.
Manchester United v Chelsea – Draw and Under 2.5 goals (29/10 BetStars)