One of the standout fixtures in the Premier League calendar will take place at Stamford Bridge on Sunday as Chelsea entertain Manchester United.
Since Thomas Tuchel took over the reins at the club, Chelsea have been in fine form, winning six and drawing two of their eight matches. The Londoners have picked up 14 points from 18 available to rise into the fifth position in the table, just two behind fourth-placed West Ham.
Thomas Tuchel is yet to taste defeat as the Blues boss and his team will enter Sunday’s showdown off the back of brilliant midweek success over Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have not been at their best domestically in recent weeks, winning just two of their last six in the Premier League. A loss to Sheffield United and back-to-back draws with Everton and West Brom at the start of February has seen Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side drop 10 points behind league leaders Manchester City.
However, the Red Devils will be buoyed with their impressive unbeaten run away from home, which currently stands at 19 matches—a club record. Against Tuchel’s Chelsea, Solskjaer’s men will fancy their chances in West London in a bid to extend their unbeaten away run.
That being said, here are three things Tuchel should do to end United’s undefeated away run in the Premier League.
Nullify Bruno Fernandes’ threat
Chelsea have kept three consecutive clean sheets at home under Tuchel and will be aiming to make that four in a row at the weekend. And to make it happen, the Pensioners will firstly need to keep United’s talisman Bruno Fernandes at bay.
Bruno Fernandes has continued with his brilliant impact for the Red Devils since joining the club from Sporting Lisbon last year. He has registered 15 goals and 10 assists in 25 league games so far this season, making the Portuguese playmaker one of the favourites to win the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
Thus, it is essential to stop Fernandes from being at his sublime best if Chelsea are to give themselves a bigger chance to win at Stamford Bridge. With Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay ruled out of the fixture, Tuchel should devise a plan to man-mark the Portuguese international out of the game.
Cope with Man United’s counter-attacks
Solskjaer’s United are one of the best counter-attacking sides in Europe. Real Sociedad were the latest team to face the wrath of United’s counter-attacks, with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes tearing apart the Spanish side in the first leg of their Europa League round of 32 clash.
Tuchel will be wary of United’s attack having himself suffered ‘the worst defeat’ in his career at the hands of Solskjaer’s side during his time as Paris Saint-Germain manager. The German tactician has implemented a 3-4-2-1 formation that focuses on high energy, high pressing and high defensive line at Chelsea and things have worked well so far.
The Blues executed Tuchel’s plan to perfection in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie against Atletico Madrid, even though Diego Simeone’s side offered hardly anything. United will be the first acid test of just how tough and effective this new organisation is, and if Tuchel’s men can stop their quick transitions, Chelsea will have a better chance to end the Mancunian club’s unbeaten away run.
Start Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud lighted up the Champions League on Tuesday with his superb overhead kick that gave the Blues a vital 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their round of 16 tie. The acrobatic goal scored by the Frenchman proved that even at 34 he’s good as ever.
Since moving to Chelsea from London rivals Arsenal in 2018, Giroud has never really been a consistent first-choice striker at the club but has proven time and again he can still be relied upon when chosen.
United have conceded 32 goals in 25 games—the most among the top six teams. The defence has clearly been an Achilles heel and given the Reds’ inability to defend set-pieces, Tuchel should hand Giroud a start on Sunday.
With 11 goals in all competitions this season and off the back of a Man of the Match performance against Atletico Madrid, the French international could prove a real thorn in Solskjaer’s side.