The weekend starts with a clash between the top two and ends with the two most successful teams of the Premier League era squaring off. They’ll no doubt be a few envious glances towards the Etihad on Saturday lunchtime but this is still a huge match as both clubs look to garner some respect after seasons that have been far below what either would have been expecting.
Chelsea do come into this match on the longest unbeaten streak in the league having not lost since Guus Hiddink took over but five draws in their last seven matches represents a lot of dropped points and even their wins under the Dutchman need to be put into some perspective: Sunderland were awful, Palace have been in a bad slump since Bolasie got injured and Arsenal were reduced to 10 men after just 18 minutes. Not only have the Blues not won back-to-back all season they’ve not even managed a run of two wins out of three since the tail end of last term.
When these teams met at the end of December it was Man Utd who dominated a goalless encounter and Chelsea come into this on the back of another nil-nil in midweek. They’ve not trailed at half-time in any home game since the start of last season but while last term they were generally ahead by the break this term they’ve been level in nine of 12 matches with the three they had an advantage in being against strugglers Swansea, Aston Villa and Sunderland respectively. They’ve not even had many tough home games as Arsenal are the only top-six side to visit Stamford Bridge this term and excluding against the current bottom four their record is a shocking W1-D4-L4.
There are a few more positives for United after a much improved display against Stoke in midweek and they did win at Liverpool in their last away game. There’s rarely much between these two sides and four of the last six meetings between United and Chelsea have finished with fewer than two goals, as four have been goalless at half-time. Goalless halves have certainly been a feature of United’s season while 58% of their 31 away games under Louis van Gaal have been level at the break.
The draw looks decent value in this game – certainly Chelsea’s odds look far too short – and five of the Blues’ last seven matches have been level at both half-time and full-time which appeals, though the safer bet of just taking the half-time draw is also worth a punt at 2.05.
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