Up until about six hours ago, I was under the impression that this match is on Sunday. Surprise! It is not. Let’s hope the team don’t make that same mistake! This match is in fact on Saturday night, moved there two weeks ago, to give us an extra day ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League match away against Salzburg. So we should be thankful for that.
It is also our first home game in two weeks, after three straight on the road. The atmosphere should be cracking, under the lights, a proper top-four showdown.
Chelsea are winless in nine against Manchester United in the league over the past five years, with four straight draws. That’s terrible. Time to do better.
Date / Time: Saturday, October 22, 2022, 17.30 BST; 12:30pm EDT; 10pm IST
Venue: Stamford Bridge, SW6
Referee: Stuart Attwell (on pitch); Michael Salisbury (VAR)
Forecast: Mild, chance of rain
On TV: Sky Sports Main Event (UK); NBC, Universo (USA); Star Sports Select HD1 (India); SuperSport Premier League, Canal+ Sport 4 (NGA); elsewhere
Streaming: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live, Telemundo Deportes En Vivo (USA); Hotstar (India); DStv Now (NGA)
Chelsea team news: The good news is that there are no new injuries, and Conor Gallagher’s mid-game illness on Wednesday has already resolved itself. Reece James, N’Golo Kante, and Wesley Fofana remain out of course, but that will be the case until at least the World Cup. And with Graham Potter’s good use of rotation, we should have some relatively well rested legs as well, including for Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell.
The less good news is that Chelsea haven’t “looked” great in the last couple games. We got lucky with (and took advantage of) Aston Villa’s and AC Milan’s mistakes but weren’t quite able to do that against Brentford, while Kepa’s goal has lived a bit of a charmed life — both due to his dozen or so saves, and also thanks to some mistakes from the opposition. The vibes may be good, and confidence growing, but we can only skate by without quality execution and tactics for so long, relying simply on individuals to step up with match-winning performances. I’m somewhat reminded of Maurizio Sarri’s early days, when we were winning games at a steady rate, but not exactly in a manner that seemed sustainable (despite the Eden Hazard cheat code) or specifically designed in any obvious way. (Not that I’d ever want to go back to the Sarri-ball days.)
Graham Potter knows he’s got the quality in the squad to make things work, and he has rightly focused on getting the mentality and approach right given the limited time he has had to work with the squad on the training ground. As long as the wins keep coming, we won’t have much to complain about.
Manchester United team news: The big news is of course Cristiano Ronaldo getting booted from the first-team and sent down to train with the kids after his latest antics, refusing to come on as a sub, leaving the bench before the final whistle, and then the stadium before the rest of his teammates in the 2-0 win against Spurs on Wednesday. As Potter said in his pre-match press conference, Ten Hag has handled the situation very well, with the support of the club, and that puts him into an even stronger position going forward.
CR7 has already apologized, but United are simply a better “team” without him, and we’ve seen that in action over the past few weeks — despite their absolute destruction by Manchester City (who of course could do that to anyone and everyone when they wish). United have won 6 of 8 in the league since losing their first two games of the season (including the home opener to Potter’s Brighton, 2-1). They are the only team to have beaten league-leaders Arsenal so far.
While Cristiano won’t be missed, Anthony Martial’s not quite ready to return yet. He loves scoring against us (4 in his last 3 starts against Chelsea), so he’s one less dangerman to worry about. Of course, with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Antony, and Marcus Rashford, there’s plenty to worry about still. Summer signing Christian Eriksen is another gamechanger, while the injuries to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, and Donny van de Beek have made Ten Hag’s selection choices easier (...and better on average).
View from the enemy: The Busby Babe
Previously: If we are to avoid another league draw (or defeat), we’ll have to channel some of our more recent FA Cup performances, such as the 3-1 win in the 2020 semifinals, the 1-0 win in the 2018 final. Our last win against United at the Bridge came all the way back in 2017, when Alvaro Morata scored the game’s only goal. People love making comparisons between him and Kai Havertz lately (and not in a good way), so here’s to Kai’s winning goal tomorrow.