The 2013-14 English Premier League season is underway! During the season Sports Unbiased will select our EPL Match of the Week, where we will preview, debate and predict some of the biggest matches in the Premiership. Taking part in this series of predictions is Mike Santangelo and Kimani Gregoire.
WEEK TWO: Manchester United vs Chelsea
Mike: Week Two of the 2013/14 English Premier League season is upon us, and we are starting to see some important early season matches. This one is as big as it gets, as Manchester United takes on Chelsea on the 26th of August. In the EPL preview article, I predicted that Chelsea would win the league this year because of the maturation of their outstanding young midfielders. I am not backing away from that prediction at all, but I think this week might belong to the Red Devils.
Kimani: It is quite unusual to see such a heavyweight matchup this early into the season but as fans why should we complain?
Mike: Both of these teams are built to score and score often. Manchester United hold a decided edge at the forward position with Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Wayne Rooney (who could end up with the opposition come Monday) all ready to come in and attack the goal. On the other side of the pitch we have Demba Ba, Fernando Torres, and Romelu Lukaku who, while an above average set of forwards, don’t strike a lot of fear in to the hearts of their enemies.
Kimani: The big edge here should go to United. Robin van Persie is arguably the best player in the league at the moment, and is capable of deciding a match all on his own. He looks to be in fantastic form already having scored twice in the season opener. As deep a side as Chelsea are, they lack that quality up front. This would be a different story if Fernando Torres played like he did during his Liverpool days.
Mike: At midfield is where Chelsea shine. Lampard, Oscar, Hazard, Mata, and Ramires are the most formidable midfield in the EPL, and one of the best in Europe. It shows where Chelsea’s strength lies as last week against Hull City, they won 2-0 on goals by Lampard and Oscar. It might have been 3-0 but Lampard uncharacteristically missed a penalty kick. United can’t field a midfield to compete with that, even with Giggs staying on the field rather than retiring as we thought he did at the beginning of the season. Valencia, Cleverly, Giggs, Kagawa, and company are above average, but nowhere near the level of what Chelsea brings.
Kimani: Well Mike, if Chelsea wants to win this match this is where they will have to do so. I agree that theirs might be the best in the entire league. Juan Mata, Oscar, and Eden Hazard are all outstanding players. United’s midfield struggled last week, as Swansea had more possession of the ball and even had more shots on goals. If their midfield allow Chelsea to do the same it could be trouble for the Devils. This is an area where David Moyes will be looking to improve upon as the season wears on after failed attempts to land Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas and now Everton’s Marouane Fellaini.
Mike: What about the defense? To me, both sides seem fairly evenly matched on paper. Both boast on-form center back veterans mixed with spectacular goal scoring left and right backs. Chelsea kept a clean sheet last week while United gave up one goal, and both have a very good keeper in the net behind them to keep things organized.
Kimani: I agree. If I were United I would be concerned with the left side of my defense. Patrice Evra is simply not the player he used to be. Chelsea (and Mourinho) meanwhile must ensure that Brazilian David Luiz plays under control and not try anything crazy. Who or what do you think will be the X-factors in this game?
Mike: The X-factor in this game for me is Eden Hazard. He is as good as it gets when it comes to skill, dribbling, and passing. Hazard can take on outside and inside defenders and beat them off the dribble, creating shots both for himself and for his teammates. If the Belgian finds room to operate he could definitely hurt United as both a passer and a shooter.
Kimani: My X-factor for this match is Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. The “Special One” have been in many of these type of matches and he knows how to get his sides ready. He is also a master tactician and should have something up his sleeve for the boys at Old Trafford. I love David Moyes and I believe he was the right choice to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, but how many of these matches has he been involved in?
Mike: Okay, time for a prediction. Usually, I tend to pick the team who can control the midfield better to win a match. But in this case I think that the lack of on-form elite scorers is going to hurt Chelsea against a very good defense. Whereas Manchester United’s forwards are already on-form and scoring goals, Chelsea has no such threat, as of yet, to keep United’s defense honest. So the pick here is Manchester United to win.
Prediction: Manchester United 2 (Van Persie, Welbeck) – Chelsea 1 (Oscar)
Kimani: I look for Chelsea’s midfield to control the majority of this match as well, and I think they will have the better scoring chances. Like you, I am concerned about their quality up front. If the scoring does not come from the midfield for Chelsea, I can’t see them winning this one. The only reason why I am calling this a draw is because the match is being played at Old Trafford and not Stamford Bridge. United will rally in the final few minutes to force a home draw with a late van Persie goal.
Prediction: Manchester United 1 (Van Persie) – Chelsea 1 (Lampard)
Who will win our EPL Week 2 Match of the Week?
- Manchester United (59%, 10 Votes)
- Chelsea (29%, 5 Votes)
- Draw (12%, 2 Votes)
Total Voters: 17
About the Author: Mike Santangelo
I'm a lifelong sports fan who never really thought of putting my thoughts in to words until now. I'm a huge fan of MLB, NFL, NCAA Football, and various futbol (soccer) leagues around the world, so these are the areas I'll be focusing on unless something else cool comes up. If you want to get in touch with me, I'd be happy to talk/argue/debate/be corrected/whatever... at firstname.lastname@example.org.