Is Chelsea’s Timo Werner the biggest flop in the Premier League?

When Chelsea announced they had signed Timo Werner last summer eyebrows were raised and there were a few gasps. They were gasps of excitement such was the quality in Werner, a German international who scored goals on a frequent rate. His signing felt alongside Chelsea’s other high profile purchases the final piece in the jigsaw.

But 4 months on after the delayed start to the Premier League due to the Coronavirus pandemic there can be little doubt that Werner has underwhelmed.

He looks like a shadow of the player that scored 34 goals in all competitions for RB Leipzig and helped take the club to the semi-finals of last seasons Champions League. Last season was his personal best by a country mile and one would have thought that he would have simply have built on that.

True his manager Frank Lampard hasn’t always played Werner in his preferred central role as a striker and has experimented with his positions given that the club have a whole host of strikers up front including the young and talented Callum Hudson-Odoi. But coming from the Bundesliga one would have thought with his extra experience that Werner would have started the campaign better.

So far this season Werner has scored 4 league goals from 17 games and 9 in all competitions. He is on course to score about 10 league goals this season about half of what one would have expected from him.

Werner has assisted in another 4 goals in the league games and has therefore been involved in 8 of Chelsea’s goals this season. The Blues have scored 32 so far so Werner has been involved in 25% of the clubs total goals. That isn’t a terrible figure at all and yet there is a huge question mark over Werner this season.

Doubts remain because we were sold an idea that Chelsea were signing a world class player who was going to get even better and he hasn’t really turned up in the big games as yet, he hasn’t been the one to make the difference and he can go quiet.

So why isn’t Werner producing the goods? Part of the problem isn’t with him but with Lampard who prefers to play him more as a winger coming into play. This clearly isn’t working out and time and again we have seen Werner with some pace coming off the wing looking at his options and then being afraid to shoot. It does feel that Lampard is favouring the English duo of Tammy Abraham and Hudson-Odoi.

Werner is still only 24 and a new league and culture is a big thing. However world class players usually adapt much quicker. Though there have been examples of players taking their time, look at Dennis Bergkamp for example who had a poor start at Arsenal but now has his statue in front of the stadium and is regarded as one of Arsenal’s greatest ever players.

Werner’s best years are yet to come but he needs to impose himself on games more especially the bigger ones that count. Whilst question marks are out on just how good he is, there is no doubt that he has the potential to be one of the Premier League’s great players. For now he needs some time, but he will be itching to be put up front in a central role, the question remains will Lampard yield to his request and free up the German international?

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Premier League Game of the Week: Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

Manchester City are back and against Chelsea they went back to 2019 producing some glittering football that made the club under Pep Guardiola the envy of so many other European teams.

City beat Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge and the result felt like a statement. With Liverpool losing 1-0 at Southampton the Premier League title has been blown wide open and if City win their 2 games in hand over the Reds they would go past them, this is in stark contrast six weeks ago when it looked like City were going through the motions- well they have improved and they started in sixth gear against a stunned Chelsea side.

In 16 first half minutes Chelsea were left shell shocked as Manchester City scored 3 goals. The opener came from Ilkay Gundogan after Phil Foden set him up Gundogan still had a lot to do on the edge of the box, a neat flick behind his body set him up to score a brilliant goal and put the visitors in the lead.

A few minutes later Phil Foden made it 2-0 with a simple tap in and Chelsea were in real trouble and had no fans to help them on. A blistering City counter attack set up the third goal with the ball eventually falling to Kevin De Bruyne surely the player of the match and he scored a rather simple goal in the end. For a game that was built up so much, it was in effect a closed contest by the first half.

It was also a first half that saw Chelsea have just 1 shot on target and even though the clubs shared possession City managed 4 shots on target. In the second half the game could have gone either way; City to add more goals, or City to take their feet off the pedals and the visitors slowed down their game.

It didn’t matter Chelsea played punch drunk and only managed 1 shot on target in the 2nd half even though they did pull a goal back. But there was virtually no threat or danger from the home side whose consolation goal didn’t come until injury time. Callum Hudson-Odoi scored the goal for Chelsea another tap in, and in all fairness this was a game of tap in goals.

Whilst the goal did nothing for Chelsea on a personal note Hudson-Odoi would have been happy to score after his recent injury lay off and he will be hoping that he can start firing in the goals again.

The defeat leaves Chelsea in 9th place with 26 points, and they are seven behind Liverpool and three points from a top 4 place. It isn’t the end of the line for the club, but at the same time they are going through poor form. The Premier League takes a week’s break now and Chelsea’s next game will be against Fulham away from home. On paper it looks like 3 points but that is a local derby and anything can happen in those games.

As for Manchester City they have won 3 games in a row now and look like a team with a purpose. Their next game is at home to Brighton and few will be going against Pep Guardiola’s team in that game.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Premier League Game of the Week: Chelsea 4-1 Sheffield United

Chelsea made it 9 games in all competitions without defeat as they demolished Sheffield United 4-1 at the weekend.

It was a huge win for Frank Lampard’s side who have now moved up to 5th place in the table with 15 points and are only three behind the current league leaders Leicester.

This was always going to be an important season for Chelsea where the pressure would be mounted on Lampard who was given a ‘pass’ in his debut season with the club. That pass was still justified as Lampard steered the club into Champions League qualification, but finishing 4th in the season without any trophies usually doesn’t cut it at the Blues anymore. Given funds to spend this summer, Chelsea will be expecting more and the early signs are looking good, for example with 20 goals scored already Chelsea have netted the most goals for a Premier League club.

As for the game you talk about pressure on Lampard but spare a thought for Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder. His side were a constant thorn in some of the big teams last season and pulled off some magnificent results along the way to finishing 9th with 54 points. But the Blades entered this game in the bottom three and had lost six times already with no wins.

The surprise of the match then was when the away side opened the scoring. David McGoldrick scored his 2nd goal of the campaign and from Chelsea’s perspective it looked incredibly hard to keep out. The ball was crossed in and an initial shot went wayward but fell to McGoldrick like a ball in a pinball machine and he slotted home before anyone could really react.

What happened next was the reaction that Chelsea showed which spoke volumes- they believed the goal was lucky and they played calm and assured football almost as if they knew if they stuck with their game plan they would get themselves back into it. Lampard had opted for an attacking 4-3-3 and that meant Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech were pushed up front. And 14 minutes after United had taken the lead it was 1-1 through Abraham who had connected onto a Mateo Kovacic pass.

Chelsea took the lead 11 minutes later through the impressive Ben Chilwell who has really fit straight into the side after his move from Leicester in the summer. Chilwell was the last man on the post to turn it in after a terrific pass from Ziyech. The half ended with Chelsea in front by 2-1 and the London club had 5 shots on target and almost 70% of possession.

As the 2nd half went on Chelsea dominated and the game never looked like going 2-2, this was confirmed in the 77th minute when another Ziyech assist set up Thiago Silva who glanced in his header to score his first goal for Chelsea, and it was a goal that effectively wrapped up the game at 3-1.

But Chelsea were not finished and just three minutes later they added a fourth through Timo Werner who smashed home an easy chance. The German international has started to show his qualities lately and that was his 4th goal of the league campaign.

 

The Blues had 11 goal attempts in the second half alone and one of their stand out players at the weekend was Ziyech and Lampard was full of praise for their new Moroccan signing. “He gives us a different style in terms of the left foot off the right side. It’s not something we’ve had much of in recent years. The ability to find the last pass or the last cross, to break teams down with a low block. We saw that today, we clearly saw that today.”

Chelsea’s leading pair of players in the fantasy rankings are Ben Chilwell and Kurt Zouma who have 24 points each.

Sheffield United are having a woeful season and that defeat has left the club at the bottom of the league. As for Chelsea though the sky looks like the limit. After spending big in the summer it seems that the team have really clicked now, and after the international break they will play Newcastle away from home where they will be going for their 10th unbeaten game in all competitions.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Chelsea back on track but is star striker Timo Werner struggling?

After Chelsea destroyed a very good Crystal Palace side 4-0 the Blues look back to form and focused after a shaky start. The victory has put Chelsea into 7th place and they are now just two points behind the top four. It was a game that means the club have gone unbeaten for the last two.

The 4-0 score line was obviously one sided and Chelsea deserved their win but without looking at the scorers list you could have been forgiven that at least one of the goals had come from star striker Timo Werner, but sadly that wasn’t the case. One has to bring up the question is Germany’s number 1 choice struggling in the Premier League?

True it is very early days and some strikers do take time to adapt. Chelsea have brought in so many different faces that as a team the club are expected to take time to gel together, but football is a business and sport that doesn’t allow too much time. The league is a month old and Werner has hardly made an impact.

Werner has scored in the Carabao Cup but in the Premier League he is yet to register a goal. Is that cause for concern? Many would say no, but the player himself just like any other striker will be worried that he hasn’t got that first goal. Strikers live for goals and it is what gives them confidence to get more and play better.No Chelsea fan wants to be reminded of the likes of two great strikers who failed at the club in Andriy Shevchenko and Fernando Torres. And that is the key here just because you are a world class striker doesn’t mean every club and every league can fit into your game.

Werner has 1 assist for a goal in the four games that he has played and most damning could be if you have the German in your fantasy team as he has zero points so far.

The critics have been kind and Werner has received no negatives despite going a month without a goal in the league. This is because he is a new signing and he will be allowed time. But if we are in November and he still hasn’t registered the pressure will start to build. At the same time Werner has proven in the last few years that he is a top striker and the betting would be that he will end up having a successful season with Chelsea.

For now the money spent on the player has not been justified and manager Frank Lampard may have to switch his system which has seen Werner play a slightly deeper role to a more advanced one if he wants to see the goals. Only time will tell.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Havertz, Chilwell, Silva and Rice? Watch out Premier League Chelsea have arrived

It’s been an odd transfer window so far with not many big noticeable deals going through between the big clubs but it seems that Premier League side Chelsea are wanting to make a statement for next season.

The Blues have already spent over £80m buying Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and Hakim Ziyech from Ajax. Two players who on paper at least are superb additions to the squad. But Chelsea who qualified for next seasons Champions League after finishing 4th last season are not about to stop shopping yet.

Frank Lampard’s side are closing in on Kai Havertz the German youngster who is being tipped to be brilliant in his position, he currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen. Chelsea have put a succession of bids in for Havertz which have all been rejected although it seems that a deal for £90m could go through very soon.

Ben Chilwell, the Leicester defender has also been a target for some time and his name has been linked to Chelsea. It is thought that a deal for the player could go through this week as the clubs are in talks. But Chelsea are not stopping there. PSG defender Thiago Silva left the club on a free immediately after the Champions League final and it is thought that his next destination is likely to be Chelsea.

The Londoners are also keeping an eye out for Declan Rice at West Ham, although if they get Chilwell it is expected that might not be able to go for Rice too, as the Hammers could demand a hefty fee. But another player who seemingly looks on his way and in a bargain free transfer is Nice defender Malang Sarr. He is only 21 and has impressed in Ligue 1 but has purposely run down his contract which must have made his club furious. They will now get nothing for a youngster, out of all the deals being laid on the table for Chelsea Sarr’s arrival could end up being the best one.

If all the deals go through Chelsea will be looking at spending around £300m and one of the reasons the Blues can spend big is because they had a transfer embargo last summer when they couldn’t buy anyone and that has built up.

Chelsea are pushing this season to advance themselves and whilst it is brilliant news for the club it will be clear that manager Lampard’s position and objectives with the club will have to change with their spending. Lampard has been left in peace with zero pressure on him last season. That ended up paying dividends, after a shaky start Chelsea were in 3rd place for the majority of the season before being pipped down to 4th on the final day of the season on goal difference against Manchester United. It changed nothing of course. Although the board would have been displeased at losing the FA Cup final against Arsenal.

This season the bar will be set higher and any mistakes and a run of poor form will be magnified for Lampard. Then again when you look at what the starting line up could be for Chelsea they may well have their strongest team since winning the 2012 Champions League title.

This next season will be all about closing that gap to Liverpool and Manchester City and being more consistent. Also the club conceded 54 goals last season, that’s simply too many for a top 4 side, so their defence needs to be more shored up.

Chelsea have already raised over £60m selling the likes of Alvaro Morata and Mario Pasalic as they try and balance the books and of course they have lost Willian to Arsenal on a free.

So with this much spending and the quality coming in the pressure cooker will be more on Lampard but Chelsea are the one team in the Premier League so far making headway and making a statement that last seasons top 4 place was not a one off. Can they seriously challenge Liverpool and Manchester City next season though?

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

Is Aubameyang bigger than Arsenal as the Gunners beat Chelsea in FA Cup final?

All of a sudden Arsenal seem back. After a poor season which saw Unai Emery sacked before Christmas and former player Mikel Arteta brought into the dug out it seemed like Arsenal would be waiting a long time for any type of silverware. However they have ended the season by winning the FA Cup against the odds.

Arsenal came from a goal down to beat Chelsea 2-1 to lift their 14th FA Cup which is a record. Indeed Arsenal have won 4 cups in the last decade and their name is becoming part of the cup itself- just go ahead and put red and white ribbons on permanently why don’t you?

A burning desire and their name to be scripted onto the cup seemed to come when they upset Manchester City at the semi-final stage. Arteta had changed up the system and even David Luiz was playing with confidence. This was the first glimpse that under Arteta Arsenal could end up being a force to be reckoned with.

In the final it was going to be incredibly difficult given that the last time Arsenal had faced Chelsea in a cup final was in the 2019 Europa League showpiece where Chelsea simply outplayed the Gunners as the game went on and ended up running out 4-1 winners. Sure Eden Hazard who is now at Real Madrid orchestrated the win but still that game surely had to be playing on some of the minds of the players?

Maybe then it was to no surprise that Chelsea took a 5th minute lead through Christian Pulisic who has been outstanding this season for the Blues. With 56 points earned this season the American international was the 3rd best player for Frank Lampard’s team.

Chelsea started brightly but couldn’t find a 2nd and there was just that feeling creeping in that they were not putting this game to bed. With under 30 minutes played Arsenal were awarded a stone wall penalty and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who else? stepped up to take and convert it and the game was back on.

Whilst the 2nd half had it’s lull periods Arsenal were looking more and more of a threat, how much difference from their second half performance in the Europa League. Chelsea hoped for extra time but the Gunners could sense blood and Aubameyang got his brace and the match winner with just 3 minutes left to play.

True Chelsea will feel that Mateo Kovacic’s sending off was harsh, though he was already on a yellow card. It’s unfortunate though that VAR perhaps isn’t used in the big decisions like this, because on this occasion the referee looked to have got it wrong. It’s also worth pointing out that Kovacic has racked up 8 yellow cards this season from just 14 starts in the league.

This cup win feels like a turning point for Arsenal though because finishing 8th in the league represents their worst season in a generation. Arteta has said the win was his most important of his career, now he will be hoping that his statement won’t hold true in a decades time.

The last word has to go to Aubameyang. He has scored 22 league goals this season and assisted in a further 3, meaning that he has contributed to almost 50% of Arsenal’s league goals. He has been phenomenal, the one truly world class player in the side that can change a defeat into a draw and a draw into a win.

Aubameyang stands above as the lead man in this Gunners side and the club will be hoping that he will sign a new contract and stay with the club. They most likely have little chance of that happening if Barcelona or Real Madrid come knocking but given how teams have had to step back somewhat following the pandemic maybe that call won’t happen and maybe Aubameyang will realise that at Arsenal he is the king of the hill, at another club that might not to be the case.

Challenge the best EPL Fantasy Managers at www.fantasy-premier.com

 

Why Frank Lampard is not happy with 4th place as Chelsea look to finish in the top three

You’ve just beaten Manchester City 2-1 and you know you have a very good team, normally you’d be very happy in the press conference after the game. So why wasn’t Frank Lampard? The Chelsea manager looked almost angry at the questions he was being asked and yet there was this focus and desire in his eyes.

You get a sense with Lampard that nothing is better than winning. Make no mistake he would have been delighted to get a win over Pep Guardilola’s City side. It was only a short time ago that City were beating Chelsea 6-0 and a lot has changed at Stamford Bridge since then.

Chelsea have played two games since the Premier League restart and have two wins both resulting in the same score line of 2-1. The first match over Aston Villa was impressive given that they went behind and it took until the 60th minute to find an equaliser even though they were far the better team. But that game summarised this Chelsea team. They will play you down, play at their pace and make enough attacks, that they actually make the opposition tired.

There is no doubt about it that this current Chelsea side are a reflection of what Lampard expected as player, no short cuts, hard work and a winning attitude. Much has been said of the lack of quality of British managers in the game, and Lampard might just be able to step out of that shadow.

For most of the season Chelsea have been in 4th place, finish there and they play Champions League football next season. This would be a success given it is Lampard’s first season with the club in the dug out. But now there is a feeling of 3rd place especially after beating Manchester City.

You almost get the feeling that after having Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United breathing down their necks trying to take the last Champions League place that Lampard has had enough. Why settle for that battle when they could go one step further and take 3rd from Leicester?

At one time that didn’t seem possible- Leicester were a good 3 wins away, that isn’t the case now there is just 1 point in it, and if you were a betting man you would probably be tempted to say that Chelsea could take 3rd this season.

So the press conference wasn’t about Lampard being angry about the result obviously not. It was about him knowing that he has achieved nothing at the club. Beating City is fantastic, but this season the objective will be a deep run in the FA Cup and getting that 3rd place.

How well do you know English football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

 

Werner, Havertz, Chilwell who will join ambitious Chelsea?

The Coronavirus pandemic has made teams across Europe stop and think about transfers, and one could conclude that some teams have taken their eye off the ball given that some seasons are about to restart across Europe. That cannot be said of Premier League side Chelsea though who have been actively busy in the transfer market.

Names have been touted and in some cases it seems that Chelsea are coming very close to wrapping up a few signatures. Heading their list is RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner. Werner is only 24 and has been quite superb for the Bundesliga team. He has scored  75 goals for the club in the league alone from just 123 games and netted 92 goals in all competitions for the side.

Inevitably this has led Werner to stake a claim in the German national side where again he hasn’t let down scoring 11 goals from 29 games. Werner in a nutshell is hot property but because of his contract release clause he can leave his current side for around 60 million euros. In the current football climate that figure seems a steal. It is thought that Chelsea are in advance talks with his club and that in fact a deal has been agreed in principle. This would be a huge capture for Chelsea, arguably one of their finest buys in years.

However it would be staggering to think that no other club will come in for Werner. Perhaps though the pandemic has had a much more negative effect on some clubs than others and this could be an opportunity for the Blues to get what would be a bargain. Usually a player so good in Germany ends up transferring to Bayern Munich so it would also stop a normal tradition.

Then there is the case of Kai Havertz. The player is just 21 and as an attacking midfielder and winger has really impressed with his pace and skills with current club side Bayer Leverkusen. Another German player Chelsea see Havertz as a must buy purchase for their team but they may have competition from Real Madrid on that one.

Not that its his job but he also scores goals and great ones too and in his four seasons with Leverkusen he has scored 43 goals in all competitions including 15 this year and the player is getting better and better by each passing season.

Of course Chelsea have always been famous for having some of England’s young talent and it seems that manager Frank Lampard won’t let that running theme be an exception under his charge. That is why Chelsea are very interested in adding Leicester’s Ben Chilwell to their squad.

The 23 year old left back has had an impressive season with the Foxes who look set to qualify for the Champions League next season after a fantastic season with Brendan Rodgers in charge.

Chilwell has also broken into the England national team and already has 11 caps to his name. Chilwell could well be on his way to Chelsea with Leicester admitting that they are already looking for his replacement. He would cost Chelsea at least £60m.

All in then if you’re a fan of Chelsea you must be excited with the names that the Blues have been linked too. They already have a very good side and the fact that they are currently 4th this season proves that.

At this stage of Lampard’s managerial term with the club things look very exciting as the former legendary player looks to steer the club in the right direction.

 

Chelsea 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils walk away with the much needed three points as the Blues’ unconvincing home form continues

Ahead of gameweek 26, the main focus was the incoming battle between Chelsea and Manchester United, two clubs who used to go neck to neck with one another for the league title back in the early years of the 21st century, but are now challenging it out with one another for a top four position.

Going into the game, the main thoughts were purely on how both teams would react following the long winter break, as neither of the sides have entered into 2020 in winning spirits and have been failing to show consistency. A win for Frank Lampard’s men would have killed United’s chances of finishing in the top four whilst extending their gap in fourth place away from both Spurs and Sheffield United, meanwhile, the three points for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team would be a huge sigh of relief for himself and the players, who have been criticised by the English press in recent weeks.

Overall, if one was to see the actual match and compare it to the end result, you would be shocked with the amount of chances that the hosts had from the first second of the game until the final whistle, as they were unable to convert their attempts on goal into the back of net. And in the end, despite the two goals that were cancelled out in the second half, they had only completed one shot on goal in the whole game, which is not good enough for a top-four side that are playing at home.

On the other hand, United showed how clinical and effective they are in the big games, where they are able produce something out of nothing and are always posing a threat through Anthony Martial and Daniel James. Surprisingly for the visitors, both their goals had actually come from headers, which has not been the usual way of scoring for them, especially with their difficulties on set-pieces.

In the end, United picked up the much needed victory, allowing them to move up to seventh place and three points behind Chelsea, who have a tough run of fixtures that are coming up which includes facing the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Manchester City. The result at Stamford Bridge is what the Premier League supporters would have hoped for, as the race to finish in the top four will continue till the final day of the season whilst the challenge for the league title is already over.

With no further ado, here are the three things we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Bruno Fernandes went on to complete quite a performance

Completing one assist, three key passes, 31 passes at a success rate of 79.5% and 54 touches on the ball, Bruno Fernandes had put on quite the performance in the number ten role, where he was also playing more as a false nine from time to time. With how quickly he has settled into English football, the chances of him being an expensive flop is really minimal as showed his intelligence on and off the ball as well as his immaculate positional awareness in what was his second game for United.

Looking at the understanding and chemistry he has formed with the likes of Fred, Daniel James and even Anthony Martial, there is no doubt that he can play a pivotal role in helping the side to finish the season on a high, as he is starting to show that he is the one to link the side’s attack from midfield. Once the individuals in Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay return from injury, the team will have the perfect balance in midfield, which will allow Bruno Fernandes to play at his absolute best.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his setup and tactics spot on again in a big game

For sure, there are many valid questions and pure hesitation about Solskjaer’s shocking record and performances when it comes against the so-called lower teams. However, the results against the top-six sides continue to stay strong and does speak for itself, as Ole has now done the double over Chelsea, which has actually not been done by a Manchester United manager in a really long time.

Within the back-five setup, it helped the team to be more compact in their own half, especially with Luke Shaw being effective as the third centre-back and the fact that Eric Bailly’s return was more than ever needed, someone who is seen as the side’s best defender. And on top of that, the effort put in by the wing-backs up and down the flank as well as from Fred through the middle was second to none, as they were able to stretch the Chelsea defence and cause them several problems.

VAR intervened on a few occasions with nearly all the correct calls

There has been a huge debate about whether the VAR system is actually useful or not, since the start of the footballing season up until now. Despite many decisions going against and for a club, it has to be seen as a fact, that nearly all the outcomes produced by this method have turned out to be correct. It may take a couple of minutes or so to review an event, which could unsettle the players and the supporters, but as long as the decisions are right, there should be no arguments at all.

Besides the outcome of the kickout from Harry Maguire on Michy Batshuayi, which could be analysed and reviewed in a number of ways, with no red card shown following the incident, the rest of the decisions made by the officials was spot on, including the moment where they had to cancel Kurt Zouma’s goal due to a foul in the build-up and Olivier Giroud’s goal because he was marginally offside. Although VAR is not a smooth and straightforward process at this moment of time, but it definitely will be soon or later, when the Football Association will go over how the method is used once the season comes to an end, and think of ideas on how to improve how it is implemented.

Chelsea vs Man Utd: The three key battles for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his men to look out for ahead of the Monday night fixture at Stamford Bridge

Ahead of gameweek 26, Manchester United shockingly sit in ninth-place and six points away from the top four positions, as they take on Frank Lampard’s Chelsea at the Stamford Bridge on Monday night. Given that there are only two league wins that separate both teams from one another, it does show the how competitive as well as how inconsistent the Premier League has been this campaign.

There are no doubts that both sides will be showing their energy and work rate on and off the ball along with the intention of securing the three points to help their side move a step forward to playing Champions League football next season. A top four finish for both teams would help them target the world class players in the summer window, in order for them to become title contenders.

Most importantly, this would be the perfect opportunity for the Red Devils to mark their stamp and also turn their away form around, having only won three games away from Old Trafford and have picked up just the 12 points out of a potential 36, whilst Chelsea’s record at home has been quite on and off with nine other teams having a better home record than them.

It’s time to look at the three key battles that can decide the outcome of this fixture…

Daniel James vs Cesar Azpilicueta

With Marcus Rashford on the sidelines for a couple of months along with Anthony Martial being really off form for the last month or so, the main attention and focus on the go-to-man will look to be Daniel James, who is always a handful with his incredible burst of pace and movement in the final third of the pitch. He may lack the final quality when needed the most, but there is a huge certainty that he will be the dangerman out on the flanks and mainly when he cuts through into the middle.

James will be in for a skin-tight and a difficult clash with Cesar Azpilicueta, who is now being utilised as a left-back due to the rise of youngster Reece James in the right-back position. The Spaniard is known to be one of the most complete defenders within the league, having played as a centre back, left back and right back throughout the last couple of years. Given his experience and exceptional positioning defensively, it would be no surprise to see him keeping Daniel James in his back pocket.

Tammy Abraham vs Harry Maguire

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham is having quite the season and especially in his first full campaign as a regular starter, as he has played on loan for the likes of Aston Villa, Swansea City and Bristol City in recent years, in order for him to gain the intelligence and understanding before he plays in the top flight of English football. And now he is on double figures in league goals, notching 13 in 24 league appearances, with only six players in the Premier League that have more goals than the 22-year-old.

Abraham has the capability to play as a target man and also as a poacher, when you consider his aerial ability as well as how he is in the right place at the right time, and he will be up against none other than Harry Maguire, who is starting to be seen as Manchester United’s best centre-back. Despite his poor performances and lack of consistency towards the end of last year, he has than more than enough to turn his form around, as the side have conceded only six goals in 10 games in all competition.

Bruno Fernandes vs Jorginho

When you see the lack of options that Solskjaer has within midfield, remembering that Paul Pogba is still a few weeks away from returning and Scott McTominay has just returned to regular training, It will mean that Bruno Fernandes will have to guide the team and show in a big match that he is the real deal. After a bright display against Wolves at home, there should not be many worries for the Red Devils of if he will be a flop or can he handle the intensity and physicality of English football.

On the other hand, for Chelsea, Jorginho will be the individual to keep an eye out for, someone who dictates the play deep in his own half and is able to pull out the much needed passes to the his teammates on the flanks and through the middle. The Italian deep-lying playmaker has been proving his critics and the English media wrong since moving from Serie A to the Premier League, as he has shown the class and composure in playing as the deepest player in the midfield trio, which is not a straightforward job for a player like him who lacks the required physicality and acceleration or pace.