Following a morale-boosting win over Newcastle, Manchester United will look to make full use of their momentum (that was sort of interrupted by the international break) when they travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea this weekend.
The Red Devils have been criticised for their lack of consistency this season but a win against the Blues could boost their confidence as they look to make a swift recovery following an underwhelming start to the campaign.
As for Chelsea, they are level on points with table-toppers Manchester City but are trailing due to an inferior goal difference.
Here are three key battles that could decide the outcome of this high-octane fixture in the Premier League this weekend.
#3 Cesar Azpilicueta vs Anthony Martial
With Alexis Sanchez doubtful after returning late from international duty with Chile, Anthony Martial is likely to start on the left flank for Manchester United this weekend.
After playing just 60 minutes in the first four matches, the Frenchman has emerged as a key figure in the United attack, of late, featuring in all of United’s last four matches in the league.
Martial notably scored the equaliser against Newcastle in the last game – a goal that handed his side the momentum as they went on to secure an astonishing 3-2 victory against the Magpies. Thus, he will undoubtedly play a key role as the Red Devils look to stretch the Chelsea defence this weekend.
However, he will be coming up against Cesar Azpilicueta, who is often deemed as “Mr Reliable” in defence. Indeed, his defensive solidity coupled with his composure has been one of the key reasons behind Chelsea’s impressive start to the campaign and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the dynamic presence of Martial this weekend.
#2 Eden Hazard vs the Manchester United defence
Though not exactly a personal duel, very few would bet against Eden Hazard producing an excellent display against Manchester United this weekend considering his fiery form this season which is coupled with United’s own problems at the back.
Indeed, Hazard has plundered seven goals, most by any player this season while providing three assists in just eight matches. On top of that, he has also notched most number of dribbles, making him an obvious threat to Man United, who could start with Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling at the heart of the backline.
While Smalling, in particular, performed rather well in the win over Newcastle, the entire United defence is susceptible of losing their solidity against someone like Hazard. Thus, their performance against the Chelsea superstar will go a long way in shaping their fate in this crucial Premier League encounter this weekend.
#1 N’Golo Kante vs Paul Pogba
In what will be the battle of two of the most highly rated midfielders in world football, Chelsea N’Golo Kante will lock horns with his compatriot Paul Pogba as both the midfielders look to make an impact in this crucial encounter.
Pogba is the obvious danger-man given his offensive superiority which is coupled with his excellent long-balls that could seriously pose a strong threat to the Chelsea defence. However, the former Juventus superstar has struggled with lack of consistency, unlike Kante, who has once again played a key role in Chelsea’ midfield endeavours this season.
In addition, Kante has also found an excellent midfield partner in the form of Jorginho, who has taken charge of circulating possession while Kante has been utilized as a more of a dynamic presence in the centre of the pitch.
Getting past Kante critical if Man United are to snatch anything from this game and that’s where Pogba comes in. The 25-year-old is undoubtedly one of the most talented midfielders in world football and if he can manage to produce a strong display this weekend, the Red Devils will definitely be confident of their chances of overcoming the West London giants.
Stat courtesy: Whoscored