Key battles that will decide Manchester United’s meeting with Chelsea
In their very first game of the 2019-20 Premier League season, the two giants of the English game come face to face in a blockbuster clash at Old Trafford on Sunday. As is often the case, the fixture will be a tight one and will be decided by a minor detail. With that in mind, here are the five individual battles we think will turn the tide in either team’s favour.
1. Harry Maguire vs Tammy Abraham
Devoured of forward options, the 21-year-old Chelsea starlet is the go-to man for Frank Lampard right now. The Chelsea legend rates the academy product very highly, and used him extensively in pre-season. The world’s most expensive centre-back though, will have intentions of his own after recently sealing his record-breaking move. Abraham combines muscle, trickery and work rate, but will have his work cut out against the former Leicester man. Maguire is successful with 70% of his tackles in the league, while won 181 duels last season.
2. Jesse Lingard vs Jorginho
The Chelsea midfielder silenced his critics to some extent last season, although questions over his ability in transition still persist. With the Red Devils most likely to play on the break, the 26-year-old Lingard becomes a big factor and will be targeting playing in and around Jorginho when that happens. The United man will also be tasked with closing down the Chelsea midfielder’s passing options, further adding to the importance of their battle.
3. Aaron Wan-Bissaka vs Christian Pulisic
Both players will be taking the field in the first competitive match for their respective clubs. Eden Hazard’s departure coupled with the injury to Callum Hudson-Odoi has paved the way for the American star to slot at Chelsea’s left-wing. He will, however, not have it easy against the former Crystal Palace man who is potent at both ends of the pitch. Both players have pace and energy to burn, which makes this duel an interesting and important affair.
4. Marcus Rashford vs Kurt Zouma
Once a Jose Mourinho favourite, the 24-year-old has taken the long route but is eventually back at the heart of the Chelsea defence. Rashford will be leading the line for the Red Devils following Romelu Lukaku’s move to Inter Milan. The Englishman hasn’t enjoyed the best of times against Zouma, performing poorly against him while the latter was on loan at Everton last season. An early goal, however, could well turn the tide in Rashford and United’s favour.
5. Scott McTominay vs Ross Barkley
Following impressive performances in pre-season, both players are more than likely to be handed starting roles in Sunday’s clash. Barkley has been exceptional for Lampard so far, and will be used at the tip of the diamond or as one of the attacking midfielders. That brings the 22-year-old United defender into play, who is very adept at reading such situations. Given Chelsea’s pre-season form, Barkley looks the likeliest to score, thereby increasing the magnitude of McTominay’s task.
Words: Chandan Pandey