Match of the season, and so early? The top two teams in the Premier League this season, according to the table and the amount of goals scored by both teams, Chelsea and Manchester United, will meet in Stamford Bridge in what will be the first big title-deciding match of the 2012-2013 season.
According to these two, one thing that’s easy to predict is goals. Chelsea have scored 19 and conceded only 6 so far while United have scored 21 and have conceded 11. Both teams have turned a corner this season and have changed their approach when it comes to the way they play in matches, both putting a much bigger emphasis on attacking football, but for different reasons.
For Chelsea, it’s what the owner wants. After finally achieving the goal of winning the Champions League in a road that involved mostly luck and ditch like defending, Abramovich asked Roberto Di Matteo to play attractive, inspiring football this summer, helping him bring over Eden Hazard and Oscar to achieve that goal.
The result so far? When Chelsea don’t meet quality midfields, it’s all OK. When they do, like in the matches against Juventus and Shakhtar in the Champions League, the flaws of the lack of talent in the middle of the park becomes evident. John Obi Mikel seems like the only man assured of a spot, while names change besides him, Ramires or Lampard.
Both don’t bring to the match the right kind of balance between defense and attack, although their performance against Arsenal, with fantastic marking of Arteta and Cazorla while allowing Juan Mata and Eden Hazard the space and freedom to concentrate on offense might be the key once again for a successful performance and a win.
United? Their defense injuries and woes forced them to change their style. Too many matches of having to come back from behind finally completed the switch in Ferguson’s mind. This team can’t stop others from scoring anyhow – their centre back crew is either injured or incapable (Ferdinand), while no matter the central midfield pairing and trio, there’s just not enough speed there to prevent counter attacking football.
He changed into somewhat of a diamond, giving Wayne Rooney a bit more space behind Robin van Persie, while Shinji Kagawa will be out for a month, and simply everyone pushes forward. Antonio Valencia might be the best winger in the Premier League, while Danny Welbeck does a better job than Nani on the left flank, creating some nice mismatches and combination with his front players changing positions with ease.
In this one, however, United can’t afford to fall behind like they have in almost every match this season. Chelsea, even without John Terry, a very strong defensive unit, despite not playing with a natural right back. It might be even better with Cahill in the lineup, but people won’t say it, avoiding any kind of insult to their captain. There’s the belief United can comeback against anyone, like they did against Braga despite falling 0-2 behind in their midweek Champions League match; at a certain point, like in their Spurs encounter, there’s just too much to fight against.
Prediction – Both teams have a very talented front four or five, depends on how you look at it. While United have the better striker, the Mata-Hazard-Oscar trio is one of the most exciting to watch in Europe on the right days. If Chelsea strike first, it’s theirs to win, as their midfield unit is built for hanging back and waiting for counter attacking chances instead of possession and standard build ups.