Joe Mellor and Nick Haynes from Football Form Labs preview the biggest matches of a bumper weekend of Premier League action including Man United’s trip to Chelsea, as well as a truncated Six Nations round headlined by the ‘grudge match’ between a buoyant Welsh side and Eddie Jones’ misfiring England.
Will the big clash live up to the hype?
Chelsea (13/10) would have taken huge confidence from their victory against Atletico Madrid in Bucharest to take Thomas Tuchel’s record in charge to six wins from eight unbeaten games. That was the first of a very hard run of fixtures for the Blues, with the next fixture coming against a Man United (12/5) side looking to maintain their unbeaten away record this season.
This is the first time that Man United will go into a game against Chelsea above them in the table in over three years, though they’ve remained unbeaten across those games, winning three and drawing three of their last six encounters, with the Blues’ only win in that time coming in last season’s FA Cup.
A lot has been said about Chelsea’s inability to get results against the better sides in the league this season, with their only win against a current top-seven side coming against West Ham at home.
However, a lot of that criticism came under the Frank Lampard reign, and while Tuchel has only faced one top-half side so far, he managed three points in that game against Tottenham, while their victory against Atlético may just be a sign that this side can, in fact, show their class against the bigger sides.
Despite their critics, they’ve lost just twice on home soil this season, which came against a rampant Man City side and against Liverpool with both goals in that game coming after they went down to 10-men, so there’s certainly an argument for them to get a result here.
The Reds Devils have now gone over a year since they last lost on the road, with that defeat coming at Anfield in the midst of Liverpool’s 68 match unbeaten home run. While that run will have to come to an end at some point, that’s not exactly the best reason to get behind the home win as there’s little to suggest it will end here.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have, however, been less ruthless away from home of late, winning just two of their last six matches, both of which came narrowly over bottom-six sides Burnley and West Brom, while they’ve drawn against all of Leicester, Liverpool, and Arsenal in that run.
We’d expect this to be a tight and low scoring game despite the obvious attacking talent on display. United have seen just 1.2 goals per game across their last five away fixtures, while the Blues have seen ‘Unders’ (19/20) land in all but one of their games under new management across all competitions.
Despite the hype for a game of this magnitude, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a goalless stalemate (10/1) here. The visitors have tended to not get caught up in the occasion this season, and are happy to play for a draw as they have done against other ‘Big Six’ sides Man City, Liverpool, and Arsenal this season, as well as in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford this season.
Man City defence can stand up tall to Hammers threat
The juggernaut rolls on and following their midweek success in Budapest taking on Borussia M’gladbach, City (1/4) are now aiming for a 20th straight victory here. They’ve won by a minimum two-goal margin in 15 of the last 18, and after a series of away games recently, they should enjoy playing back at the Etihad having trounced Tottenham 3-0 the last time they were in action there.
The Hammers (12/1) are no pushovers having beaten an admittedly out-of-form Tottenham side in their last outing, while they actually picked up a point in the reverse fixture back in October. David Moyes’ side are W7-D1-L1 in the league during 2021 so far, though four of these came versus current bottom-six sides and they’ve struggled when facing teams of real quality.
Against the current top six and teams that finished in that bracket last term, West Ham are a poor W2-D2-L10 since Christmas 2019, including a 2-0 defeat in this fixture last season. They may have scored in seven of the last eight encounters, but have netted just a single goal in four of the past five, drawing a blank in the other, and we’d be less confident of their chances of doing so here.
Including a drab 1-0 defeat during extra time away at Old Trafford earlier this month in the FA Cup, the visitor’s past seven losses have come against Man Utd and Liverpool twice each, as well as Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton.
The three most recent of these saw them shut out by the Blues back when they were conceding goals under Frank Lampard, register a consolation effort against Liverpool’s injury-ravaged backline, while they managed just the solitary effort on target in that FA Cup clash with the Red Devils.
West Ham had in fact lost four on the trot in the head-to-heads without registering a goal before the 1-1 draw with City in October, and will likely find chances hard to come by this time around. Ruben Dias has been a monumental signing for Pep Guardiola’s outfit and during the hosts’ current 26-game unbeaten streak, he’s helped them record 19 clean sheets as they never conceded more than once.
Down the other end of the field, Ilkay Gundogan has been on an incredible scoring run, but he may not find himself in so many advanced positions now with Kevin De Bruyne returning from injury. However, Raheem Sterling catches the eye amongst the potential goalscorers.
Since 2014/15, across his time with both Liverpool and Man City, the England international has notched eight goals and six assists in 10 league starts against the Hammers. Moreover, he’s also found the net in five of his past eight outings versus anyone, and could once again be a thorn in West Ham’s side.
Six Nations – Can England top the table come Sunday?
A postponement of the France vs Scotland game due to Covid-19 means a window of opportunity opens up for either England or Wales to top the Six Nations table following the weekend’s action. Elsewhere, Ireland will be looking to get back to winning ways.
Italy (20/1) host Ireland (1/16) in the early Saturday kick-off
- Italy have lost their last 29 Six Nations games since March 2015
- Italy have lost their last 18 home matches in this tournament since 2014
- Against England, France and Ireland themselves, the hosts have lost eight of their 11 meetings in Rome by more than 22 points since 2014
- Ireland have won six of their last seven Six Nations meetings with their hosts by more than 22 points.
A grudge match for buoyant Wales (5/2) and misfiring England (17/35)
- Wales have won seven of the last 10 meetings between the two at Principality Stadium
- Wayne Pivac’s men are just W5-L6 under his tenure
- With the exception of weaker sides Italy and Georgia, Wales have been behind at the halfway point in eight of their nine matches under current management
- Only South Africa (World Cup final), France and Scotland have beaten England from their last 19 matches dating back to August
- 15 of England’s last 16 victories have seen them ahead at both half time and full time
- England have won all five of their games against Wales since 2012, with George Ford at 10 and Owen Farrell at inside centre like they will be this Saturday.
Stat of the day
- Italy have lost each of their last 29 Six Nations games at all venues since March 2015. Moreover, they’ve lost their last 18 on the bounce at home in this tournament since 2014.