The Premier League roars back into action this weekend, after a 14-day Nations League-induced break, and what better way to start than with a beleaguered Jose Mourinho heading back to the scenes of some of his greatest triumphs.
Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is box office and so all eyes will be on Stamford Bridge on Saturday as he takes his eighth-placed United to take on the second-placed kings of the King’s Road, and the pressure is well and truly on.
Chelsea have so far taken 20 Premier League points from a possible 24 under Maurizio Sarri – a perfect demonstration of how quickly the Italian’s squad have who taken his message on board – and will be keen to turn the screw on Mourinho.
Interestingly, just prior to the international break, the United manager looked to be on his way out of Old Trafford as his side went 2-0 down to Newcastle, but a truly thrilling comeback saw them win that game 3-2. And so, perversely, there has been some breathing space for Mourinho over the last weeks as he strives to find a formula to drive United forward.
TOP TIP! – Chelsea to win 2-1 @ +730 / Eden Hazard First Goalscorer @ +425
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In terms of team selection, for United Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic both withdrew from their respective international squads during the break and so while they will be assessed both are unlikely to feature at Stamford Bridge.
On a more positive note, Jesse Lingard, who has not played since the EFL Cup defeat by Derby and missed the two England games, is getting closer to fitness and may be available, so too Argentine defender Marcos Rojo, who has yet to feature this season.
Another United star to return to training during the international break was Ander Herrera, a player the Reds have used in the past to quell the threat of Eden Hazard, but this may come too soon for him.
Chelsea’s only injury concern heading into the game – assuming those who have been away on international duty return fit and healthy – is Antonio Rudiger, who withdrew from the Germany squad during the break due to a groin injury, but the former Roma defender remains hopeful of being available.
As alluded to above, much will depend on how well United are able to contain the threat of Hazard, and if the Belgium star, who has been simply on fire this season, is given too much time and space there is only one winner. Mourinho however, for all his travails, is the master of nullifying threats in his opponents’ armoury and will have a plan.
In terms of head-to-heads, in their 181 meetings United have won 77 times compared to Chelsea’s 54, but recent exchanges have seen the Blues close the gap and they have not lost at home to the Reds since October 2012. We see this run continuing.
Sarri’s men are odds-on for the win for a reason (1.70), with a United 1-0 win as long as a whopping 15.00, but we see it being much tighter than the odds compilers. Given Mourinho’s acute understanding of games like these, 1-1 is not the worst shout in the world but we can see Chelsea having just too much and a 2-1 home win is our tip ( +730 with 188bet).
And while it’s not the most imaginative bet going, we struggle to see past the +425 on offer from BetVictor for Eden Hazard to be first goalscorer.
TOP TIP! – West Ham & Spurs to draw 2-2 @ +1250 / Half-time score of 1-1 @ +650
This weekend also sees the first of two games in the London Stadium between the Hammers and Spurs – the second on October 31 being a last-16 Carabao Cup clash.
But it’s Premier League points up for grabs this weekend, and with Spurs now just two points off the top of the table – despite all their difficulties this season – they will head east confident of getting the three points. A repeat of last season’s 3-2 win there would suit Mauricio Pochettino just fine
For West Ham, a disastrous start to the season was halted with a run of three games that yielded seven points, but they suffered a setback at Brighton’s Amex stadium last time out when slipping to a 1-0 defeat.
Spurs, meanwhile, have won three on the bounce and have confounded the ‘experts’ who see their prolonged stay at Wembley and a relatively thin squad as reasons for them to drop out of the title reckoning. However, they have somehow managed to cling onto the coattails of Man City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
But London derbies are notorious ‘levellers’ and West Ham will still fancy their chances of winning the game. The Hammers will be hoping that Robert Snodgrass is available, despite withdrawing from the Scotland squad with an injury last week, and also that Javier Hernandez can return after suffering from a virus.
They will however have to do without Carlos Sanchez, who has joined long-term absentees Winston Reid, Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshere and Manuel Lanzini in their treatment room.
Tottenham will be without Jan Vertonghen, whose serious thigh injury has ruled him out until December, but are hopeful that Danny Rose, who had to withdraw from the England squad with a groin problem, can pass a late fitness test. Of even greater concern is the mystery injury sustained by Christian Eriksen and the continued absence of Dele Alli; both are unlikely to feature in the London Stadium
So, while the bookies have Spurs down as odds-on favourites (1.83), we can see the Hammers making like very tough for them, especially with the Spurs side being laden down with players who have been away on international duty. We can see a draw, perhaps a high-scoring one given the tired legs, and so 2-2 ( +1250 with 188bet) looks a reasonable shout.
And while Harry Kane as first goalscorer (3.90) looks another decent, if obvious, bet, we’re equally tempted by 1-1 as the half-time score ( +650 with BetVictor).
TOP TIP! – Arsenal to win 2-1 @ +730 / Arsenal to win and Leicester to score @ +165
It seems a long time ago now when Arsenal, under new manager Unai Emery, slipped to defeats in their opening two league games, because since then the only way has been up. They head into Monday’s game with Leicester at the Emirates looking to extend their winning run to an incredible ten games on the bounce.
Along the way they have managed to keep Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool – the joint-leaders – in their sights and are now just two points adrift, with Emery’s methodology looking more effective with every passing game. In short, things are looking rosy for the Gooners.
Leicester’s season has been mixed – four wins and four defeats – but they have won two of their last three and will head to the Emirates with no fear. Unfortunately for them, they will also be heading to north London without the services of skipper Wes Morgan, who will be serving a suspension for misdemeanours against Everton last time out.
What the Foxes will be looking to do is draw inspiration from last season, where they beat the Gunner 3-1 at the King Power and lost only to a very late Olivier Giroud at the Emirates after a really good performance.
For the Gunners, Mesut Ozil returned to full training last week after his recent lay-off due to a back problem and has a chance for Monday, as has Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who hasn’t played fracturing a leg on the opening day of the season. Petr Cech is also to be assessed over the weekend after his hamstring injury, along with Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Danny Welbeck thigh, and all have an outside chance of making the squad for the Leicester game.
Other than Morgan, any late selection problems for Leicester will be around players coming back from the international break with knocks, something that for James Maddison is unlikely to be an issue as he didn’t get a kick after his first England call up. He’ll be hungry and ready, while team-mates Ben Chilwell and Harry Maguire both played the full 180 minutes for England.
In terms of head-to-heads, this will be the 140th meeting between these two, with Arsenal winning 65 and Leicester 30, and we’re finding it hard to find a plausible argument for Leicester to make it 31. So too are the bookies, who have the Foxes as long as 6.25.
They do however do have the knack of scoring away from home and have done so in every away game in the league, so we expect Leicester to again. Therefore, with us still leaning heavily towards a home win we’re going 2-1 Arsenal ( +730 with 188bet). On the same basis we’re also drawn to ‘Arsenal to win and both teams to score’ ( +165 with 888sport).
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