Who: Chelsea FC vs. Manchester United FC
What: English Premier League Week 22
Where: Stamford Bridge, West London, England, United Kingdom
When: Sunday, January 19, 2014
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast Stamford Bridge
Time: 4 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
TV: NBC Sports Network, NBC Sports Live Extra (US); Sky Sports 1/HD, Sky Go,
Sky Sports 3D, Sky Sports 1 Ireland, MUTV Online, NOW TV (UK)
Worldwide Livestreams and TV Channels: LiveSoccerTV.com
Radio: SiriusXM FC SIRI 94 (Internet channel 94), TalkSport Radio, BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Phil Dowd
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -130, Manchester United +350, Draw +280
Total: Over 2½ -125, Under 2½ -105
Decimal Odds: Chelsea 1.77, Manchester United 4.50, Draw 4.00
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.80, Under 2½ 1.95
Fractional Odds: Chelsea 10/13, Manchester United 7/2, Draw 14/5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 4/5, Under 2½ 20/21
Alternate Odds: Chelsea -½ -130, Manchester United +½ Even
Over 3½ +200, Under 3½ -275
First Half: Chelsea Pick -260, Manchester United Pick +190
Odds To Win EPL: Chelsea 3/1, Manchester United 33/1
Source: Bovada (Kahnawake, Canada)
3-Way Odds: Chelsea -124, Manchester United +388, Draw +282
Total: Over 2½ -102, Under 2½ -106
Source: Pinnacle Sports (Curacao, Netherlands Antilles)
Chelsea plays its first home game of 2014 when it hosts Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday in what looks to be the game of the week in the English Premier League.
The Blues return home to West London on the heels of three straight wins in which the Europa League champions outscored their opponents, 7-0. Chelsea is unbeaten in its last six games overall (10-1 goals) and hasn't allowed a goal yet in 2014. Heading into this clash with the defending league champion Red Devils it looks like manager Jose Mourinho has finally got his club playing like he wants.
Happy New Year.
For seventh-place United (11-4-6, 37 points), the transition from Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes appears to be like having gone from a Porsche to a Toyota right now. Looking at this particular game of the schedule before the season started, the Red Devils and their fans would have at least liked to have been going into this game with big guns Robin van Persie (seven goals) and Wayne Rooney (nine goals). But that seems to be working against United as reports indicate the dynamic duo will likely miss this contest.
So it can’t get any worse for the Red Devils, can it? I’m afraid it can. Patrice Evra (knee), Marouane Fellaini (wrist), Ashley Young (shoulder) and Nani (hamstring) have all been ruled out while the availability of Rio Ferdinand (knee), Phil Jones (ankle) and Jonny Evans (back) will be determined after late fitness tests.
So, limping United will start the weekend out 11 points off EPL leaders Arsenal (15-3-3, 48 points), but these Mancunians are most likely just aiming for a UEFA Champions League spot in the wake of their incredibly average and somewhat disappointing start, much to the pleasure of the fans of their Noisy Neighbors, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, Newcastle United, Fulham...well, let’s just say the entire rest of the Premier League just to be safe.
The Red Devils have been fairly decent on the road (6-2-2), but without RvP and Rooney—who have not played together since Dec. 10—and the rest of United’s walking wounded, the club will have to look to guys like Danny Welbeck (eight goals), Javier Hernandez and budding star Adnan Januzaj for scoring here against a Blues side which is unbeaten at home so far this season (9-1-0). Chelsea is in the midst of the aforementioned scoreless streak this calendar year and has never lost in league play under The Special One at Stamford Bridge.
Please send sympathy cards care of Old Trafford Stadium, Sir Matt Busby Way, Manchester M16 0RA, United Kingdom.
Well, maybe it’s not that bad bubba and maybe I am taking a little bit too much journalistic license in handicapping the Red Devils’ chances, but, as a Chelsea fan, it’s hard to not see at least a little humor in a seventh-place team coming into SW6 with its two best players probably out and the Blues playing their best football in quite some time behind a manager who has never lost a league fixture at Stamford Bridge. Actually, more than "hard;" virtually impossible, brother.
No doubt fans of third-place Chelsea (14-4-3, 46 points) will be in full throat come Sunday but finding a way to beat United (+350)—despite all the streaks and lovely words—will still be quite a challenge. Because if one really thinks about it, this match is much more important, both psychologically and possibly financially, for the visitors so expect a dogfight here at least for 60 minutes.
The Blues have been brilliant at home (21-8 goals), thanks again in great part to the world’s most underrated goalkeeper, Petr Cech, who just recorded his 150th clean sheet in the Premier League for Chelsea and who now just sits 19 shutouts away from all-time leader David James (169).
Thanks in great part to the 31-year-old Cech and maybe the best back four in England’s top flight, the Blues have allowed just 19 goals so far this season in 21 games, tied with Everton and Arsenal for the least goals allowed in the league. Chelsea and Cech have allowed just one goal in their last six games in all competitions (Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel, Dec. 29) as captain John Terry, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ashley Cole and David Luiz have been absolutely superb.
The recent play of the fuzzy and seemingly eternally happy Luiz has been a welcome sight. The versatile 26-year-old was used in the midfield for the second time this season in the Blues 2-0 win at Hull City in their last outing and the Brazilian had more completed passes (54), clearances (16), ball recoveries (eight) and interceptions (four) than any other player in the game. He also won a game-high 10 of 13 aerial duels.
Let me go out on a thick limb and say one shouldn't sell a player that can do all that in one match, play as defender or a midfielder and who possesses a deadly shot like Mr. Luiz does. Please take note, Uncle Roman.
Besides the defense, the Chelsea offense has also been clicking in its own schizophrenic kind of Chelsea way with Willian, Andre Schurrle, Juan Mata, Ramires, Oscar, Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and especially Eden Hazard having vastly improved over the way they were playing as a unit at the beginning of the season.
Although not as drastic as being without van Persie and Rooney and the rest of that United injury laundry list, the Blues will be without vice-captain Frank Lampard (muscle) and Branislav Ivanovic (knee) who are both reportedly still out for the entire month of January.
As far as this series goes, the Red Devils hold the upper hand over the last 10 meetings (5-3-2, 16-12 goals) but guys like Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, RvP and Rooney were all available and playing for United during that span and one of the best—if not the best—managers in the world was calling the shots at the time.
In this fixture last year, Chelsea and Cech prevailed 1-0, while when these two teams met earlier this season on Aug 23 in Week 3 at Old Trafford, it ended 0-0 in one of the most boring games in the history of the sport. Even The Color Beige—who won’t put butter on his toast—thought the game was a tad dull.
With the Blues possibly being able to vault into first place and the Red Devils so inconsistent and so beat up, siding with Chelsea at the fair three-way price (-130) appears to be the most logical thing to do here, although just watching would probably be the wisest thing. With David de Gea in goal for the visitors, Chelsea (7-3 Home Overs) should be able to score a couple of goals while holding a depleted United to either one or zero.
After dancing with Moyes and his boys this weekend, the Blues return to play a week later (Jan. 26) with a home date against Stoke City in the fourth round of the FA Cup followed by a scheduled date the following Wednesday (Jan. 29) with West Ham United, also in West London.
If so inclined, feel free to leave your predicted starting XIs below although perfectly pegging the Red Devils starters may be deserving of a free deep-dish Chicago-style pizza or something equally worthy in this particular situation.
PREDICTION: Chelsea 2 Manchester United 1
BETS: Chelsea -130, Over 2½ -125
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