Countdown to 2017/18: Chelsea – Official Manchester United Website


04/08/2017 17:44, Report by Adam Higgins

Every day between now and the opening weekend of the 2017/18 Premier League campaign, we’re looking ahead to the new term in our season countdown series.

Manchester United will aim to be among the teams battling to wrest the title from Chelsea when the new season gets under way.  

The Blues beat off strong competition to lift the trophy for the fifth time in the Premier League era in 2016/17, during Antonio Conte’s first season as manager.

Now, the Reds will be looking to depose the champions – with the meetings between the sides at Stamford Bridge, currently scheduled for 4 November, and Old Trafford, due to be played on 24 February, likely to prove key in Jose Mourinho’s bid to outgun his former club.

With the big kick-off just over a week away, check out our factfile on Chelsea below…  

CHELSEA

Manager: Antonio Conte left a huge impression on English football in his first season in west London, masterminding a charge to the title as the Blues brought the Premier League trophy back to Stamford Bridge for the second time in three years. The 48-year-old, one of the most decorated players in Italian football history with Lecce, Juventus and the national team, won three successive Serie A titles as Juventus boss and spent three years as Italy’s head coach before moving into the Chelsea hotseat. Conte’s intelligence and man-management skills have earned admirers and, after recently signing a new two-year deal, he will be desperate to build on the success of his debut campaign.   

Stadium: Stamford Bridge opened in 1877, when it was first used by the London Athletic Club, before Chelsea took over in 1905 and have played their home games there ever since. With a capacity of 41,663, it will be the eighth largest venue to host top-flight football next season and is commonly known to have one of the tightest pitches in the Premier League. The club has plans to expand the capacity to 60,000 by the 2021/22 season.

Last season: Chelsea head into the new campaign as defending champions after a record-breaking 2016/17 campaign but without captain John Terry for the first time in 22 years. After a disappointing season in which they finished 10th in 2015/16, the Blues didn’t compete in Europe for the first time since 1996/97, which helped them to prioritise the league campaign. Conte’s men started well before a three-game winless run in September, when doubts started to emerge, but a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal would prove the turning point as a subsequent switch to an effective 3-4-3 system allowed Victor Moses, Marcos Alonso and PFA Player of the Year N’Golo Kante to shine and gave Eden Hazard the platform to rediscover his form of the title-winning season of 2014/15. The Blues then embarked on a 13-game winning run, equalling the Premier League record for consecutive victories in a season, and managed to break the record for a number of wins in a campaign (30) and record the second-highest points tally in Premier League history (93). They clinched the title with two games to spare following a 1-0 win at West Bromwich Albion in May.

Last meeting: United fans won’t forget the last time the Reds locked horns with Chelsea back in April in a hurry. Hailed as one of the best displays of the club’s mammoth 64-game campaign, Mourinho’s men put in a disciplined performance to outclass the league leaders as goals from Marcus Rashford and Man-of-the-Match Ander Herrera earned a 2-0 success on Easter Sunday at the Theatre of Dreams. It was United’s first Premier League win over Chelsea for four years and a significant success which proved to be one of the season’s most memorable highlights.

Head to head: Of all the opponents we have encountered over the years, United have arguably found Chelsea the toughest to come up against. The Reds have faced the Blues 50 times in the Premier League era and have only been on the winning side on 14 occasions, drawing 19 and losing 17 in total. The first meeting was at Stamford Bridge in December 1992 as Eric Cantona found the net in a 1-1 draw. Former club captain Wayne Rooney has been most prolific United player against the Blues in the Premier League, scoring nine goals, while strikers Javier Hernandez and Mark Hughes each notched eight times.  

Played for both: As United have shared a fierce rivalry with Chelsea in recent years, moves between the two clubs are seldom made, with only six players representing both teams in the Premier League era. Welsh frontman Hughes netted 120 goals in 345 appearances in a distinguished United career spanning 15 years over two spells before leaving for Chelsea in 1995, where he netted 25 goals in three years, while defender Paul Parker, goalkeeper Mark Bosnich and midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron also turned out for both. More recently, Spanish playmaker Juan Mata won the Champions League with Chelsea in 2012 before arriving at Old Trafford a year later, while Colombian striker Radamel Falcao also had loan spells at both clubs. Nemanja Matic will join this elite club in 2017/18.  

Memorable match: United have found Stamford Bridge something of a bogey ground in recent seasons so any success is all the more sweeter, and the 3-2 victory in October 2012 will live long in the memory for Reds fans. Just a few months after United came from 3-0 down in an equally thrilling 3-3 draw between the sides, the tables were reversed as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men raced into a two-goal lead through a David Luiz own goal and clinical Robin van Persie strike. Chelsea, who had Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres sent off, roared back through current United star Mata and Ramires before Hernandez struck the decisive goal on an eventful afternoon to secure three points for the Reds.   

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