It’s fair to say that both Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho have taken on difficult jobs this summer. Conte, who led Juventus to several Serie A titles and coached the Italian national side was Chelsea’s preferred permanent pick to take over for this season, after Guus Hiddink had stabilised the Stamford Bridge club for a second time following the sacking of Jose Mourinho.
At the time, Chelsea were in freefall, languishing near the relegation zone having been crowned Premier League champions the previous season with a side devoid of confidence and seemingly on the verge of implosion. Mourinho was subsequently relieved of his duties as Chelsea manager in December of last year, and whilst Hiddink helped to stabilise the team and guided them to a 10th placed finish, Conte was chosen by Roman Abramovich as the man to get his club back on track.
Mourinho himself took on the job vacated by Louis van Gaal this May at Old Trafford, with the Dutchman leaving a parting gift of the FA Cup before being unceremoniously pushed out of Manchester United to make way for the Portuguese. So far, neither manager can claim to have enjoyed a fantastic start, but both sit within striking distance of Manchester City and Arsenal at the top of the Premier League pile, and their meeting on Sunday will certainly have added spice with Mourinho making his return to the dugout at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea themselves have several concerns over player availability; according to a post on the club’s official site, John Terry has returned to training and should be available, but despite Willian and Oscar returning from Brazil after being given time off for compassionate leave, Conte has yet to decide if the Brazilian internationals will take part in Sunday’s game. Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas are also said to be close, but probably won’t make his starting line-up.
It’s the inclusion or exclusion of Willian and Oscar that’s of most interest here. If Conte picks the same 3-4-3 formation that he employed against Leicester City last weekend, then it’s likely that Willian will play alongside Diego Costa in attack, but if not, Pedro will be drafted in. The Spaniard hasn’t looked all that convincing since his move from Barcelona in the summer of 2015.
It’ll be fascinating to see how Chelsea cope with United’s attack, given their three-man defence of Terry, David Luiz and Gary Cahill is an attempt by Conte to flood an area of the pitch that he deems to be his team’s greatest weakness. As such, Mourinho might be tempted to replace Ashley Young with Anthony Martial from the side that drew 0-0 with Liverpool on Monday, with the Frenchman’s superior pace and skill capable of causing Chelsea more than a few problems with Marcus Rashford on the opposite flank. The midfield trio of Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera will be prepared to stifle the home side as they did with Liverpool’s front three of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Saido Mane on Monday, but there were enough flashes in attack to suggest that United could have offered far more threat than we saw in that game.
In the last eight times both Manchester United and Chelsea have clashed, there has been under 2.5 goals (8/11) in seven of the games. And considering both Jose Mourinho and Conte are knowing for preferring defensive systems, there is certainly money to be made here.
Manchester United have been impressive in the last few games. You can get them to win at 14/5 with bet365.
Chelsea are available to win at 23/20 at Bet365 which is a great deal considering how excellent Manchester United have been against the Red Devils.