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Chelsea vs Man Utd: Potter and Ten Hag eye statement win in Champions League race with old rivalry reignited in new eras

TWO new managers, one old rivalry – but three crucial points up for grabs.

For Erik ten Hag and Graham Potter, they are just getting their feet under the table in their respective offices at Carrington and Cobham.

Graham Potter has enjoyed a successful start but faces an in-form Man Utd side
Erik ten Hag knows another win against a ‘Big Six’ rival would be huge for his side

But they will know all about the history of this famous clash – and how important a win could be come the end of the season with both men desperate to clinch a top-four spot.

For Potter at Chelsea, this is his toughest test so far.

He saw off Crystal Palace, Wolves and Aston Villa but Brentford held firm for a 0-0 in midweek as his Blues cling on to fourth.

Chelsea are facing only their second ‘Big Six’ opponent of the season and come into this evening’s Stamford Bridge showdown against Manchester United with a torrid recent record while United are aiming for a fourth win against the established elite this term.

The Londoners have not won any of their last NINE Premier League matches against the Red Devils, a run stretching back to November 2017.

But the safe bet is on a draw.

This match-up has thrown up a record 25 draws – the most in Premier League history – including the last four and six of the last eight.

But if anyone knows how to beat this United side, it’s Potter.

He took his then-Brighton side to Old Trafford on the opening day of the season and waltzed back to the south coast with a 2-1 win and United in turmoil.

Thomas Frank and Brentford made it a whole lot worse the following week before Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City hit the neighbours for six.

Should Potter mastermind a rare victory for Chelsea, he would become just the second manager in history to beat the Red Devils with two different teams in a single league campaign, after Andy Aitken way back in 1908-09 with Middlesbrough and Leicester.

Jadon Sancho and Jorginho were on the scoresheet in this clash last November before Cristiano Ronaldo cancelled out Marcos Alonso’s opener at Old Trafford in April.

But there is no chance of the five-time Ballon d’Or winner repeating the trick today.

Ten Hag has chosen to be without Ronaldo – not that he will be missed much – as he stamps his authority down after the Tottenham debacle.


The petulant Portuguese’s latest tantrum, which saw him refuse to be subbed on and then exiting the stadium before full-time – has earned him a training pitch to himself, a one-match ban from his boss and left him £720,000 worse off.

But that should see Marcus Rashford lead the line again – with United surely unchanged from the convincing performance against Spurs.

Rashford is two goals away from his 100th for United in all competitions with five against Chelsea – including that spectacular free-kick away in 2019 which came a week before Ten Hag’s only visit to Stamford Bridge, a chaotic 4-4 draw for nine-man Ajax in the Champions League.

By contrast, Raheem Sterling has NEVER found the net against United in his 23 appearances, the club he has faced most in his career, but will hope his luck changes in his first outing against them for Chelsea.

The pair, who are battling it out for the left-winger position for England next month, know an impressive performance today could boost their chances for the World Cup.

Raheem Sterling is yet to score against Manchester United
Marcus Rashford scored a belting free-kick at Stamford Bridge in 2019

Potter stumped Ten Hag on the opening day with his unconventional 3-3-3-1 formation.

And in his first few weeks at Chelsea, he has proven he is not afraid to switch the shape to find the best results, even adapting his side’s set-up within matches.

That makes it hard for Ten Hag and his team of coaches and analysts to prepare fully for today’s game.

Will it be a back three or a back four? Ben Chilwell or Marc Cucurella? Where might Ruben Loftus-Cheek play? How will the midfield set up? Who leads the line?

One thing is for sure, and that is Kepa Arrizabalaga will keep his place in goal after five consecutive clean sheets.

Kepa Arrizabalaga has kept five clean sheets in a row
Potter masterminded a 2-1 win at Old Trafford in August
Fred and Bruno Fernandes were both on target as United beat Tottenham

And he will need to be on top form again when the Red Arrows of Manchester head to West London.

The team that lost to Potter’s Brighton managed five shots on target.

But with Rashford finding some form again, £85.5million man Antony hitting the ground running plus fellow newbie Brazilian Casemiro and even Fred taking aim, Ten Hag’s men have racked up 77 attempts in their last three matches – albeit with 25 on target and three goals.

With six wins and 15 goals apiece this season, Chelsea and United are pretty evenly matched.

In fact, just one point separates the two clubs, who go into the weekend fourth and fifth respectively.

Potter and Ten Hag know whoever wins ends the weekend in the Champions League spots – and can keep the pressure on North London pair Arsenal and Tottenham who play tomorrow.

They may not be battling it out for the title as they were in the noughties, but Chelsea and Manchester United simply do not like each other and can lay a major marker in the early stages of their new eras with a statement performance and positive result.

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