4th meets 5th in the Premier League this weekend as Chelsea host Manchester United at the Stamford Bridge on Saturday. This match does have history to it as both these clubs are the most successful English teams in the 21st century and for fans it is match with no love lost, a grudge match so to speak. Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of the matchday squad in playing in West London after the Portuguese left Old Trafford before the final whistle in the game against Spurs.
Chelsea head into this game on a 7-match unbeaten run in all competitions under new manager Graham Potter and face a rejuvenated United side that seems to be more motivated playing under Erik Ten Hag. Chelsea are coming off the back of a 0-0 draw against Brentford on Wednesday when Potter made a wide variety of changes to his side that beat Aston Villa 2-0, and the Blues are currently 4th in the Premier with 20 points from 6 wins and 2 draws. Manchester United are trailing Chelsea only by 1 point in 5th with 19 points, and given how they’ve managed to turn their season around after a slippery start, they’re bound to give Chelsea a tough time at home.
The topic of conversation coming into this weekend’s clash would be Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence in the squad for the game against Chelsea. The former Real Madrid man was left frustrated with manager Erik Ten Hag in their 2-0 win against Spurs on Wednesday when he ended up playing zero minutes and left the pitchside before the referee could blow the full-time whistle (89th minute). It is a matter that has since been addressed by manager Erik Ten Hag by opting to drop Ronaldo from the matchday squad, claiming the Portuguese refused to come on when he was set to be substituted on on Wednesday. This has now sparked a major division between the club’s followers, many calling Ten Hag to be disrespectful towards Ronaldo with his treatment of him this season. While others are defending the manager’s stance, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments made in 2013 about a player not being bigger than the club resurfacing when the fans refer to Ronaldo’s behaviour on Wednesday.
There were rumours of Ronaldo departing from Manchester United in the recently closed transfer window and Chelsea were one of the clubs said to be suitors for the former Real Madrid man. New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly did appreciate the services of Ronaldo but then Chelsea manager Tuchel opted against the signature of the Portugal number 7. Since that move fizzled out, Ronaldo has struggled to get gametime under Ten Hag and the question now remains if Cristiano Ronaldo remains a Manchester United player after the January transfer window closes.
Chelsea will lining up against Manchester United without their key players N’Golo Kante (4 months, hamstring) and Reece James (8 weeks, knee), losing them out to long-term injuries. Reece James has been very vital for Chelsea this season, with 4 goal contributions in 11 games in all competitions this season, as well as putting very solid shifts at right-back, for the Blues. Graham Potter is still trying to figure out his favoured line up, and his most notable win as Chelsea head coach came against AC Milan, when his side were able to beat the Italian champions 3-0, and with Kepa Arrizabalaga seeming to regain his confidence in the stick they’ve managed to romp up 5 clean sheets in their 7 games under Potter so far this season. The last time the Blues beat United in the league was back in 2018 when they managed a 1-0 victory over them, and it is well worth noting that these two sides’ last 4 clashes have all ended in draws. Since United have managed to avoid defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the league for this long says something about their mentality when playing against Chelsea.
Judging by their previous results and the entertainment these 2 clubs showcase when facing each other, it is a hard one to call out clearly. A draw is not completely out of the picture given how they’ve been playing recently, but if one team is to win it would be Manchester United riding on their own momentum.