The new Premier League season may be less than a week old, but champions Manchester United and a rejuvenated Chelsea will go head-to-head on Monday night in the first blockbuster clash of the new campaign.
Chelsea top the table with six points out of six, but United have also won their opening game and will be looking to match the London side’s start to the season.
The return of Jose Mourinho for a second spell as Chelsea manager has lifted the club and they are desperate to regain the Premier League title.
Much has been made of United’s tough opening fixtures — new manager David Moyes described it as the club’s toughest start in 20 years — and United veteran Ryan Giggs said his side know they need to start strong.
“We need a good start,” Giggs said this week. “When Mourinho was at Chelsea, they obviously got off to good starts and we didn’t manage to catch them.”
“It has been well documented that we have a tough start but we got a good win at Swansea on Saturday and hopefully we can carry that on.” Mind games play as much of a role in these fixtures as much as who plays in the matches and United defender Rio Ferdinand has already suggested it is not even his biggest game of the season.
“It’s not my favourite game,” Ferdinand said. “You look forward to playing every time at Old Trafford. It is a special place to play and we all appreciate that we can play there in front of our home fans and we try to put on a show.
“(But) you’ve got your closest rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City, that are hyped up that bit more than against anyone else, so winning that kind of game is probably the biggest of the season.” Mourinho must decide the attacking formation to use at Old Trafford, having played Fernando Torres in his opening game but then resting him in favour of Demba Ba against Aston Villa on Wednesday night.
Romelu Lukaku is another option for the Portuguese as he looks to maintain his side’s perfect start to the season.
The new Chelsea Manager is still locked in a prolonged transfer-battle with United for Wayne Rooney.
Mourinho says he will wait until after Monday’s match before making a third bid for the England striker, but United have said he is not for sale and see Chelsea’s interest as trouble-making.
Rooney is set to play a part in Monday’s match as United look to build on their win over Swansea in the opening weekend.
Elsewhere this weekend, Manchester City, who looked impressive in their 4-0 win over Newcastle first time out, travel to newly-promoted Cardiff City.
An injury to his captain Vincent Kompany means City manager Manuel Pellegrini will have to shuffle his defensive line, with Javi Garcia standing by to step in, should Matija Nastastic not recover from injury in time.
Arsenal will try to bounce back from their opening-day defeat by Aston Villa with a win at Fulham, while Tottenham — with the likely departure of Gareth Bale hanging over their heads — host Swansea on Sunday.
Villa take on Liverpool while West Ham are away to Newcastle and Everton entertain West Bromwich Albion.
Hull City take on Norwich City, Southampton face Sunderland and Crystal Palace travel to Stoke City in the weekend’s other games.