gtag('config', 'UA-12595121-1'); Manchester United buoyant ahead of Chelsea clash – The Zimbabwe Mail

Manchester United buoyant ahead of Chelsea clash

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LONDON (Reuters) – Manchester United will approach Saturday’s home Premier League clash with Chelsea in buoyant mood rather than in trepidation after a week which has gone some way to banishing the gloom that was descending on Old Trafford.

After going into this month’s international break with a 6-1 home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur, they have emerged from it with a couple of victories that have kick-started their campaign.

Last weekend’s 4-1 win at Newcastle United was followed by a 2-1 victory away to Paris St Germain in the Champions League and, for now at least, the critics have been silenced.

Chelsea’s visit, however, presents a test of United’s upswing as they seek their first home league points of the season following defeats by Crystal Palce and Spurs in which they have leaked a combined nine goals, scoring only two.

Chelsea have had their own issues, notably in defence, although a 0-0 home draw with Sevilla on Tuesday in which veteran defender Thiago Silva was magnificent hinted at a big improvement.

The Blues have not won in the league at Old Trafford for seven years and Frank Lampard’s reign as manager began last season with a 4-0 hammering by United. They also lost 2-0 at home, although they did win the FA Cup semi-final between the two.

Chelsea are eighth in the standings with United 15th, having played a game less, and while the table is still shaking out after an unpredictable start to the season, both clubs need to start showing the consistency required to be title contenders.

Liverpool host Sheffield United on Saturday and will be wary of the threat their former forward Rhian Brewster will pose, especially with the champions starting a Premier League game without Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence for the first time in more than two seasons.

The Dutchman’s absence, possibly for the whole season after his knee was damaged by a reckless tackle by Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford last weekend, is a huge blow. However, Juergen Klopp’s side showed they can defend without him in a 1-0 win at Ajax Amsterdam on Wednesday.

Action begins on Friday as surprise high-flyers Aston Villa, the only club in the top flight with a 100% record, host Leeds United whose early season form has dipped somewhat.

With four consecutive wins Villa have enjoyed their best start to a season for 90 years and can go top of the table with a point, but manager Dean Smith is not getting carried away.

“If you’re off it at any stage in the league, you can get a bloody nose very quickly,” Smith warned.

Leaders Everton go to Southampton on Sunday when Arsenal host Leicester City. Injury-hit Manchester City travel to a buoyant West Ham United on Saturday.