Undoubtedly the glamour tie of this weekend’s fixtures, Manchester United and Jose Mourinho will know the importance of building on their late comeback against Newcastle before the international break.
With just one win in their last five, all eyes will once again be on the Portuguese tactician.
Enduring their worst start in 26 years, Mourinho will not be relishing a trip to his old stomping ground.
If Chelsea are to strengthen their title contender status, a convincing win over their old foe would certainly raise a few eyebrows.
One of three teams on 20 points and leading the race, Maurizio Sarri’s side are the only team in England yet to be beaten in any competition.
To add another dimension to Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, Sky Italia are suggesting the 55-year-old’s position could be on the line.
With just two wins in West London over the last century, there are three potential battles to keep an eye on.
Eden Hazard vs Marcus Rashford
While United’s work ethic was heavily questioned during their four-match winless run, one man who came away relatively unscathed was Marcus Rashford.
An ever willing runner for Mourinho’s cause, after finding the net in England’s iconic win away in Spain during midweek, the 20-year-old will face another stern test on Saturday.
Now scoring three in his last four for Gareth Southgate’s side, it is likely Rashford will once again be deployed on the right-hand side of United’s attacking trio.
If Mourinho’s #10 is to try and keep Eden Hazard out of the picture, he will need to be in constant communication with makeshift right-back Ashley Young.
Still seen as an out and out wide man, Young can have a tendency to leave space when he joins the attack.
Given Hazard and Chelsea’s frightening speed on the counter-attack, the English duo cannot afford to be stuck in limbo.
Eden Hazard is the only player directly involved in 10+ goals this season
“Priority number one” 👀 pic.twitter.com/pi88p2l0qa
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 17, 2018
With seven Premier League goals to his name, the Belgian winger aleady sits two clear at the top of the goalscoring charts.
Tipped by many to be the best player in Europe currently, Sarri has even set Chelsea’s #10 a 40 goal benchmark.
Showing a more selfish streak in front of goal, no player in Europe has also created more chances than the World Cup Bronze medalist.
Mourinho being the defensive-minded boss that he is will insist that his young winger fulfills his duties in his own half first and foremost.
If United’s likely right-sided duo cannot work off the same page, the 27-year-old winger and his stacked midfield will exploit them.
Jorginho vs Fred
The arrival of Sarri’s former Napoli pupil, Jorginho has been a huge part in Chelsea’s early season revolution.
Spending two years under the Italian at Stadio San Paolo, the 26-year-old embodies his bosses ‘Sarri-Ball’ style of play.
Making just eight appearances in the Premier League, nobody has had more touches or completed more passes than the Jorginho.
Jorginho’s 180 passes against West Ham is the most attempted in a single Premier League game since such data was collected in 2003/04.
One every 30 seconds. pic.twitter.com/IW1EDHNPdR
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 23, 2018
With two-time PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante being used in a more advanced role, Jorginho sets the tempo at the heart of Chelsea’s midfield.
In need of someone to try and stifle Chelsea’s midfield trio, Mourinho could turn to summer arrival Fred to set the tempo.
With Nemanja Matic withdrawing from international duty and returning early to Carrington, he joins Scott McTomminay on United’s list of midfield casualties.
Likely to have Marouane Fellaini playing as the deepest of the three midfielders, the Brazilian will line up next to Paul Pogba.
While Chelsea are growing a reputation for quick, fluid football, United lack that mobility.
No team in the Premier League covered less distance than Mourinho’s side before the international break.
Similar to the job that another injury absentee, Ander Herrera done on Hazard last year, Fred must not allow Jorginho and co to take complete control of the game.
With no player at United making more interceptions than Fred, the 25-year-old will face arguably his toughest test to date.
David Luiz vs Romelu Lukaku
While Rashfaord’s tireless work ethic has been applauded by the Stretford End, one man who has epitomized United’s lack of mobility is striker Romelu Lukaku.
Currently on a six-match goal drought, the Belgian international has been heavily criticized for his performances against Valencia and West Ham.
Making a minimal effort to stop the attack starting at the back, sides have found it incredibly easy to get United on the back foot.
Against a side like Chelsea who will play out at all costs, United can’t afford to have a passenger in their side.
Particularly a passenger who is meant to be leading from the front.
A key part Sarri’s new found attacking philosophy at Chelsea has been his sides ability to start attacks from the back.
“He’s delivering calm, authoritative displays alongside Antonio Rudiger, his decision-making has improved enormously, and he acts as a springboard for a stream of attacks”@adrianjclarke analyses the impact of @ChelseaFC‘s renaissance man, David Luiz: https://t.co/ChPBLP8UAU pic.twitter.com/DSyzQqp9e8
— Premier League (@premierleague) October 15, 2018
Since making his return from Chelsea exile, defender David Luiz appears to have found a new lease of life under Sarri.
Making just 16 appearances under former boss Antonio Conte, the two-time Premier League champion has embodied the Blues’ new philosophy.
Forming a very impressive partnership with Antonio Rüdiger, Sarri’s attacks tend to start at the heart of their defence.
Along with their Italian anchor sat in front of them, the Blues’ defensive duo both sit in the top five for passes completed.