Football

Man United buoyant ahead of Chelsea clash

A preview of this weekend’s EPL games

Manchester United will approach Saturday’s (Oct 24) home English Premier League clash with Chelsea in buoyant mood rather than in trepidation, after a week which has gone some way to banishing the gloom that was descending on Old Trafford.

After going into this month’s international break with a 6-1 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur, they have emerged from it with a couple of victories that have kickstarted their campaign.

Last weekend’s 4-1 win at Newcastle United was followed by a 2-1 victory away to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and, for now at least, the critics have been silenced.

Chelsea’s visit, however, presents a test of United’s upswing as they seek their first home league points of the season, following defeats by Crystal Palace and Spurs in which they have leaked a combined nine goals, scoring only two.

Chelsea have had their own issues, notably in defence, although a 0-0 home Champions League draw with Sevilla on Tuesday in which veteran defender Thiago Silva was magnificent hinted at a big improvement.

The Blues have not won in the league at Old Trafford for seven years and Frank Lampard’s reign as manager began last season with a 4-0 hammering by United. They also lost 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in the league and again at home in the League Cup, although they did win the FA Cup semi-final against the Red Devils.

Chelsea are eighth in the standings with United in 15th, having played a game fewer, and, while the table is still shaking out after an unpredictable start to the season, both clubs need to start showing the consistency required to be title contenders.

EPL champions Liverpool host Sheffield United on Saturday and will be wary of the threat their former forward Rhian Brewster will pose, especially with the Reds starting a Premier League game without Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence for the first time in more than two seasons.

The Dutchman’s absence, possibly for the whole season after his knee was damaged by a reckless tackle by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford last Saturday, is a huge blow. However, Juergen Klopp’s side showed they can defend without him in a 1-0 win at Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Action begins on Friday as surprise high-flyers Aston Villa, the only club in the top flight with a 100 per cent win record, host Leeds United whose early-season form has dipped somewhat.

With four consecutive wins, Villa have enjoyed their best start to a season for 90 years and can go top of the table with a point, but manager Dean Smith is not getting carried away.

“If you’re off it at any stage in the league, you can get a bloody nose very quickly,” Smith warned.

Leaders Everton go to Southampton on Sunday when Arsenal host Leicester City, while injury-hit Manchester City travel to a buoyant West Ham United on Saturday. – REUTERS

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