talkSPORT’s chief football correspondent ALEX CROOK previews the Premier League encounter between Manchester United and Chelsea…
🔴 MAN UTD v CHELSEA 🔵
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The pressure is really mounting on Erik Ten Hag ahead of Manchester United’s crunch clash at home Chelsea on Wednesday.
Saturday’s lame 1-0 defeat at Newcastle was United’s 10th loss already this season – the earliest they have reached double figures since being relegated from the top-flight in the mid 1970s.
With a must-win Champions League home game against Bayern Munich next week followed by a daunting trip to Liverpool, ten Hag needs to start picking up results to save himself from the sack.
The most alarming takeaway from the trip to St James’s Park for ten Hag is that some of his players appeared to down tools.
As with numerous United gaffers of the post Sir Alex Ferguson glory days, it seems ten Hag is facing an uphill battle to regain control of a toxic dressing room.
The body language of Marcus Rashford in particular this season has been appalling and it would not be a surprise if ten Hag finally bit the bullet and left out the underperforming England man.
Chelsea themselves are hardly enjoying a vintage season and sit five points behind their hosts in the table.
What was once a standout fixture at the very top of the Premier League now looks like a battle between two faded giants.
But, while struggling for consistency Chelsea have picked up some notable results this season, drawing with both Arsenal and Manchester City and beating bitter rivals Tottenham.
The fact they dug deep to hold out for victory at home to Brighton on Sunday after captain Conor Gallagher’s early red card is a very positive sign for Blues manager Mauricio Pochettino.
The suspended Gallagher will be a big miss as the England midfielder has emerged as a driving force and leader in a very inexperienced team so the return of captain Reece James after serving his own ban is a timely one.
Chelsea have won three of their last four away games, but you have to go back more than a decade for the last time they tasted victory at Old Trafford.
They will be encouraged by United’s questionable home form this season which has seen Brighton, Crystal Palace, Newcastle and Galatasary all come away from what was a fortress last term with victories.
Another stat in Chelsea’s favour is that United have not beaten a single team in the top half of the table.
However, it is hard to put forward a confident case for either side picking up three precious points so I am leaning towards backing the draw at 5/2 with starsports.bet.
Both teams have looked suspect defensively over the course of the campaign so I will be adding in both teams to score for the second part of my build-a-bet.
Local lad and former Manchester City midfielder Cole Palmer will relish the opportunity to put one over United.
Palmer, likely to replace Gallagher, has already weighed in with four goals this season and will resume penalty taking duties after being benched with a knock at the weekend.
Adding Palmer to score at any time with the draw and both teams to score returns around 16/1 with starsports.bet.
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BACK Draw, both teams to score and Cole Palmer to score at any time 1pt at 16/1 with starsports.bet