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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Manchester United: 3-4-3 put to the test

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Hopes and expectations align.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

In the ten matches Chelsea have played so far this season, Antonio Conte has already deployed three different formations.

While the pre-season's flirtation with an ultra-attacking two-man midfield in a 4-2-4 setup lives on in the League Cup, for most of the early part of the season, Conte brought back the 4-3-3 that added an extra man into midfield and acknowledged our lack of true depth at striker beyond Costa and Batshuayi.  While Chelsea collected three wins from three with the 4-3-3, early signs of concern were there as two of those wins needed heroic comebacks in the final minutes.  Better quality opposition would eventually exploit the system, individual errors greasing Chelsea's path to back-to-back defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal.

The new solution has been to drop a man from midfield to defense, switch to wing-backs and grant both freedom (in attack) and greater tactical responsibility (in defense) to the wide attackers supporting the center forward.  In two games, the system we're calling a 3-4-3 (with ball) / 5-4-1 (without ball) has yet to give up a goal while scoring five.  Conte hammers on the idea of a compact defense all the time, and the three men in the back, coupled with at least one midfielder dropping back and the wing-backs running their lungs out (supported by the attacking mids dropping off), has so far proven his golden ticket towards that destination.

Hull City are obviously terrible and just about any decent setup should've resulted in a Chelsea win.  But last week's 3-0 win over reigning champions Leicester City was Chelsea's best showing all season and now we'll have to build on that.  Manchester United may only be seventh, but led by Jose Mourinho, beating them will be no easy task.

While Conte has shown he's not afraid to switch things up when in search of a solution to a problem, once he finds a solution, he tends to ride it until it stops working.  Enforced changes aside, he will look to start the same eleven who have gone two-for-two with the 3-4-3.  That one enforced change was Willian, who missed last weekend's game while on compassionate leave.  If he's fit and ready, he will probably return to the lineup.  Otherwise, Pedro will probably deputize once again.

With the veteran contingent of Fàbregas and Ivanović remaining out injured, and Terry's status a bit murky (reports claim he's hurt; Conte claims otherwise), we should expect to see a few youthful faces on the bench once again as well.

3-4-3:
Courtois | Cahill, David Luiz, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Matić, Kanté, Moses | Hazard, Costa, Willian

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In perhaps the most one-sided vote ever for a preferred lineup, the WAGNH Community agrees completely with the prediction.  The only minor doubt is Willian (just under 70%); 9 out of the other 10 garnered over 90%, with Matić coming in at 80%.  Synergy!

3-4-3:
Courtois (99%) | Cahill (94%), David Luiz (99%+), Azpilicueta (99%) | Alonso (97%), Matić (80%), Kanté (99%+), Moses (93%) | Hazard (99%+), Costa (99%), Willian (69%)