Chelsea travels to Manchester to take on the Red Devils, what are some things to look out for in the heavyweight bout between the rivals?
Chelsea’s Frank Lampard and Manchester United’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have developed quite the rivalry in the last year and a half. The two managers met four times last season with the latter emerging with a winning record, but the former capturing the match that mattered most. The Blues and Red Devils will meet again at Old Trafford on Sunday, here are three things to look for in the match:
1. Chelsea’s fitness levels
There were many talking points following Chelsea’s 0-0 draw with Sevilla midweek. The inaugural match of the 2020/21 Champions League—Lampard’s first goalless draw in charge of the Blues—said a lot about the young side. Perhaps nothing was more obvious than the need for rest within the squad, however. The shortened season has the schedule more congested than ever and the match in Manchester kicks off a period of five games in 14 days. Throw in the thousands of miles the squad will have to travel and there’s little time for recovery.
It was obvious midfielders Mason Mount and Kai Havertz were absolutely gassed against the current Europa League title holders on Tuesday. The pair hardly looked their normal selves all match, which is part of the reason Chelsea failed to register many chances. Mount and Havertz are just two of the Blues’ players who were run into the ground during the international break, and then again at the weekend.
Lampard’s squad is beginning to look a lot healthier than at the start of the season though. Christian Pulisic recently returned from injury and seeing as he’s found himself in the XI the last two matches, nobody knows what Saturday holds for the American. Another viable option is Hakim Ziyech, who has made brief cameos in each of the last two matches. Either of these attackers—in addition to Callum Hudson-Odoi—could step in and see one of the struggling midfielders get a much needed rest.
Further, the Blues’ back line will need evaluating, as well. Edouard Mendy recently played 90 minutes between the sticks, despite a thigh injury keeping him out of the last Premier League game. Mendy looked fit, but one can never be too cautious about muscle injuries. Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell have also spent a significant amount of time early in the season on the bench building their fitness. The stability at the back, and possibly the match, hangs in the balance of these three men.