Manchester United would be locked in a titanic contest with Chelsea for the chance to clinch a top-four spot when they lock horns in a league match on Sunday. At stake in the encounter is not just the three points on offer, but a significant boost in the push towards finishing in any of the top four positions of the English Premier League. With the first two positions already locked down by Manchester City and Liverpool (who are locked in their own life and death struggle for the EPL crown), and Tottenham Hotspurs looking very likely to clinch the third spot, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United are locked in a three-way contest for the last spot. This three-way contest is made more interesting with Manchester and Chelsea facing off in what can be tagged a top-four six-pointer.
Chelsea currently occupies the fourth position, separated from Manchester United in the sixth spot by three points. Manchester United would see this game as a chance to cancel out their points deficit to Chelsea and brighten their own chances for a top-four finish. Chelsea would want to strike a blow for their own top-four cause by winning and putting further distance between them and their rivals.
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A season of upheavals at England’s heavyweights
Both clubs have endured a topsy-turvy domestic season and it is already a given that none of them would be winning a domestic trophy this season. This must be particularly galling for the two clubs who have been English football’s most dominant sides of the last two decades. Manchester United’s season unraveled so badly that they fired their manager midway through the season. The stand-in manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, ushered in a brief period of renaissance which got him the job on a permanent basis. Since his permanent appointment, results have become just about as terrible as it was under the erstwhile manager. The club has lost eight of its last ten games crashing out of the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League in the process.
Chelsea has not fared significantly better, starting the season on a promising note under new manager, Maurizio Sarri when they went twelve league games unbeaten before losing to Tottenham Hotspurs. Things have gone awry since then and there have been some farcical results such as the humiliating losses to Bournemouth and Manchester City. Things have stabilized a bit for the West London team, and they are now three points and two places above their Sunday opponent.
What to expect in the encounter
Manchester United’s recent home form has been mixed, winning three of their last five games and losing one. All season, they have won ten of their seventeen home games, amassing 35points out of a possible 51. Manchester United have not managed a goal in their last four encounters across all competitions, a run that has featured two particularly embarrassing domestic defeats. They would be looking to star man, Paul Pogba who leads their Premier League’s goal chart with 13goals to produce the sort of performance that made them splash out eighty-nine million pounds which were a world record deal in 2016 to right such a dreary return. He had already scored once when Manchester United beat Chelsea in an FA Cup encounter at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
Chelsea’s away form has not been very inspiring too, they have won only two of their last five away games, losing three in the process. Of their seventeen away games so far this season, they have won nine and have garnered 28points out of a possible 51. Chelsea’s star turn is Eden Hazard, a player who has plundered sixteen goals in the league for them this season and they would be hoping he reproduces some of his sparkling outings from the past against Manchester United as they go into this make or mar match. There should be goals in this particular encounter and a winner should also emerge.