One often wonders how much difference a manager can make. Chelsea have experienced extreme highs and extreme lows under both Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte over the past half-decade. Now under the perpetually positive Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea are on the up once again, enjoying their football and — to most everyone’s astonishment — parked just a few goals off the top of the table.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s cliched third-season storm cloud has appeared over Old Trafford, on cue. The club have already given him the dreaded vote of confidence. He’s facing a sideline ban by the FA (but he will be present tomorrow). Absent a come-from-behind win over lowly Newcastle in the last match, Manchester United conceivably could have been shopping for a new manager during the international break already. Some reports claim they will be after Saturday, should Mourinho lose again at the Bridge, just as he’s done in his previous two visits there with United (without scoring a goal, even).
As ever, it’s going to be intense. It always is with Mourinho around. This time there’s even more drama than usual riding on the outcome.
Date / Time: Saturday, October 20th, 2018, 12:30 BST; 7:30am EDT; 5pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Mike Dean — The man who’s refereed more Chelsea matches than anyone else in history is in an entirely non-unique position of being accused by both sets of fanbases for perceived bias against their team and favoritism towards the other team.
Forecast: Nice day for football, a partly cloudy 16 °C (76 °F) with 10% chance of rain.
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBCSN, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); elsewhere
Streaming online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India)
Chelsea team news: Ross Barkley, Ethan Ampadu, and Callum Hudson-Odoi returned from the international break with various knocks that may have ruled them all out of this game. For the former, given his resurgent form, that would be an especially cruel blow. There are other, more minor concerns over Mateo Kovacic (match fitness), Antonio Rudiger (groin), Pedro (shoulder), and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. All but Kovacic stayed behind at Cobham to work on rehab and recovery over the past couple weeks.
Chelsea have not lost a match since the semi-competitive curtain raiser of the Community Shield. With 9 wins and 2 draws since in all competitions, it’s all about continuing the momentum both as a team and in terms of individual performances, like Eden Hazard leading the Premier League with 7 goals already (2 more than anybody else).
Manchester United team news: Mourinho has a host of injury concerns, starting with new-contract-man Luke Shaw, who pulled out the England squad. Nemanja Matić and Marouane Fellaini did the same for Serbia and Belgium, respectively, with the latter then also picking up (or re-aggravating) his knock in training. All three are doubtful for tomorrow, as are Jesse Lingard, who hasn’t played in almost a month, and youngsters Diogo Dalot and Scott McTominay. Foul-happy duo Marcos Rojo and Ander Herrera face late fitness tests, with the midfielder expected to do everything in his power to go to war for his manager against Eden Hazard once again.
The stakes are massive for United, mired in 8th, and Mourinho personally, with two wins, three draws and one loss in his last five matches in all competitions. We’ll see what tactics he’ll employ against Sarri’s most active press in the Premier League. Parking the bus is the obvious choice, and no one plays the spoiler quite like Jose.
Here's pressing rate in the Premier League.— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) October 18, 2018
We're seeing increasingly varied styles in the PL this year, Sarri's Chelsea working like mad to win possession, and Liverpool letting up on the press is definitely a thing. pic.twitter.com/s2lp8omErj
View from the enemy: The Busby Babe
Previously: United have not won at the Bridge since Ferguson retired, but how about 25 of Chelsea’s finest goals against Manchester United? Watch for jaw-droppers from Gianfranco Zola and Joe Cole, plus two from secret weapon Kanté (half his 4 total Chelsea goals!) and also Gary Cahill.