Our handicapper is looking at the soccer odds to see if Louis Van Gaal's Manchester United can inflict Chelsea's first Premier League defeat on them. Here are his free picks.
This fixture has shaped the Premier League title race over the last decade and even last season Jose Mourinho took his team to Old Trafford with a plan not to lose. As it turned out, he should have taken the game to David Moyes’ team. It’s a new era now and there seems to be chasm between the clubs.
I've watched Manchester United very closely over the last three games as they amassed two wins and one draw. It could have easily finished three draws or a loss and two draws, I sense they’re living on their luck a little at the moment. This isn't just me and my judgement, the stats still show they are giving their opponents too many chances in front of goal.
If we go back to the final season of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign and the home game against Everton, the Toffees only had two shots on target, while West Ham were allowed just the one shot that required a save. If you look at the same games this season, the two teams had six and four shots on target respectively. The defence just isn't good enough. I was talking to BBC pundit Robbie Savage this week and asked him if he saw anything in the Manchester United defence that convinced him they could keep out the best team in the Premier League at the moment, his response was no.
If Manchester United give Chelsea six shots on target they will score from two of them. In addition, despite the sense that the attack is flowing, the Red Devils only had one shot in each of the two second halves in their last two home games. The big positive is that with the strike power they have up front, they know that every shot is a potential goal.
This is the first real test to Manchester United this season having only played Everton from last year's top six and they weren't in the same kind of form as they produced under Roberto Martinez last term. I think Manchester United are the fifth best team at the moment judging by their performances and find it hard to see how they will cope against this Chelsea side, unless they rediscover the art of defending and fast.
Chelsea strolled past Slovenian side Maribor in the Champions League on Tuesday night scoring a hatful of goals. The downside is that Loic Remy went off injured meaning at the time of writing Didier Drogba is the only fit striker. However it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Mourinho was keeping quiet about Costa’s fitness.
Even without a recognised striker, I would still fancy Chelsea to score against Manchester United at Old Trafford. I don't think Chelsea will play as they did at Old Trafford last season, Mourinho has always measured himself against Ferguson and I'm sure he would love to get one over a manager the calibre of Louis van Gaal.
In Chelsea's two biggest games of the season so far in the Premier League they went with attacking line up against Everton and scored six and beat Arsenal fairly easily with their 4-2-3-1 system. It is serving them very well with either Cesc Fabregas or Oscar or Eden Hazard sitting in behind the striker and Matic able to protect the back four.
This was the strongest defence in the division last season, and although they have conceded quite a few goals on the road (six in total) they are still one of the best defences overall in the division.
United's only real hope in my opinion would be to set up with a very strong defence and midfield and look to hit Chelsea on the break giving away the majority of the possession to the Blues. This would be a very rare occurrence at Old Trafford though and it isn't something you associate with van Gaal’s style of management. The reality is that Manchester United’s only real hope given the manager’s style is to score more goals than Chelsea and attack them from the off. Chelsea will react to whatever the opposition throw at them, so I expect a high number of goals. I'm going to play a soccer pick that I've had a lot of good fortune with this season already both teams to score in the first half at 7/2.
There is no doubt the United players (a lot of them still internationals of course) will raise their game for the visit of the title favourites, but that doesn't mean they can out-perform them. Many will be happy to take the simple Chelsea win at 6/4, but I'm taking Chelsea to win and over 2.5 goals and if Costa plays take him to score at any time in the match at 17/10.
Free Soccer Pick: Chelsea win and over 2.5 goals 3/1 at Bet365