The only way this game could have been scheduled worse is if it kicked off this Saturday at 10:00 a.m Eastern. Chelsea’s annual visit to Manchester United is normally be one of the most anticipated fixtures of the season, but scheduled far too early, the stakes are low-to-non-existent. At least if it was on opening weekend we could have had the months of insane buildup, people like us driving a ‘Moyes debuts against Chelsea narrative’ six feet deep. Doesn’t that sound fun?
I guess we’re just going to have to content ourselves with 22 elite soccer players starting for two iconic clubs playing in front of a 75,000 people at one of the best venues on Earth. As for stakes — beyond these being two of the three major contenders for this year’s title — we’ll have to supplant them with the uncertainty that we’re still not very sure if United will fall off of Chelsea has truly made up the gap. If either side manages three points, it will be as huge of a result as you can muster 10 days into a season.
Chelsea comes into the match at the top of the Premier League, with first week wins over Hull City and Aston Villa putting them on a perfect six points through two matches. Today’s game, however, will be their first way from Stamford Bridge. It will also be their first against a side that’s expected to compete for Europe.
Manchester United faced both of those things in week one, going to the Liberty Stadium in Swansea to post a 4-1 win on Michael Laudrup’s Swans. Doubles by Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck got the David Moyes era off to a surprisingly strong start.
For United, there is one notable change from Monday’s game: Wayne Rooney starts. The recalcitrant star began on the bench against Swansea yet came on to record two assists. Against the club he’s rumored to be moving to before the transfer deadline, Rooney may make one of his final Manchester United starts. He comes into the team for Ryan Giggs.
Chelsea’s wrinkle is the lack of an obvious number nine. Against Hull they used Fernando Torres. Demba Ba started against Aston Villa. Today, José Mourinho’s going with an attacking four of Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Eden Hazard, and Andre Schurrle. Amazingly, Chelsea has named a striker-less team that doesn’t contain Juan Mata.
Kickoff is at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, on NBCSN. If you’re away from your television, head over to NBC Sports Live Extra, where you’ll be able to stream today’s match.
Manchester United: David de Gea; Phil Jones, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Antonio Valencia, Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Danny Welbeck
Chelsea: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Ramires, Frank Lampard; Kevin De Bruyne, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Andre Schurrle