Premier League Tactical Preview: Chelsea v Manchester United


Chelsea have gained some momentum in recent weeks. They are unbeaten in five and conceded just once in this run of games.

Meanwhile Manchester United have been floundering, losing three on the spin before a much needed 2-0 victory over Swansea. The pressure is still mounting on David Moyes though, who will desperately need a big game performance against Chelsea to prove his United credentials and help his side push closer to a top four finish.

 

Possible line-ups

New Chelsea signing Nemanja Matic could go into the starting line-up alongside Ramires, meaning that David Luiz is dropped to the bench. Fernando Torres, who netted against Hull, will continue to start up front with Willian, Eden Hazard and Oscar in support.

Wayne Rooney will miss out against Chelsea meaning that Danny Welbeck will continue to lead the line given that Robin van Persie is also absent through injury. Patrice Evra is a doubt but should be cleared to face Chelsea, with United fielding a similar back five to that that kept a clean-sheet versus Swansea last weekend.

 

The Eden Hazard impact

There is one Chelsea player who can have a huge impact on the result on Sunday and that is Eden Hazard.

The Belgian has been in blistering form this season, scoring nine times in 21 appearances from the flank. Not only is he in the goals but he has also created 50 chances for his team-mates, more than any other Premier League player.

Hazard is very much the Chelsea player who can make things happen out of nothing and impact a game when things look tight. His goal versus Hull was a case in point, as Hazard dribbled in front of the box and then let rip into the bottom corne, at a time in the game when Chelsea needed something to happen.

He is excellent on the ball and out of the 20 top dribblers in Europe (in terms of successful dribbles per game) no player has scored more.

United will have to be aware of his running ability in and around the box, as well as his end product with his goalscoring and creative play crucial to Chelsea. Whether Rafael has the discipline to mark him out of the game remains to be seen, because Hazard will attack him all game long. If we look at his performance versus Hull we can see how he took on the full-back at will, completing four out of seven attempted dribbles:

Antonio Valencia will have to work hard from right midfield to track Hazard back and also judge his forward runs carefully or leave Rafael in a dangerous one-on-one situation.

For United, if they cannot shackle Hazard – which will require the right midfielder to also track back effectively – they will struggle to get anything from this tie.

 

United's attacking approach 

United showed more assurance against Swansea last weekend as they emerged victorious.

Danny Welbeck will again play up front following a promising outing versus Swansea, with Shinji Kagawa in the no.10 role, operating between Chelsea's back line and midfield and rotating with Adnan Januzaj, who will be playing from the left. 

Januzaj has become a key figure at United and will continue to be so against Chelsea. Versus Swansea he drifted in from the left very well, sticking primarily out wide but also moving into the central areas behind the forwards as we can see below:

Kagawa could also interchange here, drifting left to change positions with Januzaj, who will then come centrally. This was a feature of the side’s play versus Swansea last weekend and it worked relatively well. This will require Willian, who operates from Chelsea's right, to track back and be aware of the switches in play or risk leaving Cesar Azpilicueta exposed at right back. 

 

Conclusion

Having won four games on the spin and in the context of Manchester United's recent mixed form, Chelsea will be hoping to come away with three points and further their title credentials, and the outcome of this game could be settled by one of two exciting Belgians; Hazard and Januzaj.

 Neither side can really afford to lose. Chelsea will want to keep pace with Arsenal and Manchester City, whilst David Moyes could do with taking a big scalp to reinvigorate his squad as they look to push back into the top four.

Ultimately though, home advantage and the Hazard factor should be key.


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