Weblog: The football punter

More misery could be heading Mourinho's way

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 12.30pm Saturday

Jose Mourinho has returned to Stamford Bridge as Manchester United manager three times and suffered defeat every time. The same outcome against Chelsea is likely again on Saturday.

Mourinho calmed the storm slightly last time out as United roared back from two goals down to beat Newcastle in a dramatic Old Trafford finish. But the result was more important than their inconsistent performance, which has blighted the Red Devils all season.

Throughout the international break critics could still quite rightly have been wondering how United were able to get themselves into such a mess in the first place, as they almost lost for the fourth time after earlier defeats to Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham.

United conceded three times in all three of those defeats and the fact they have been able to keep just one domestic clean sheet highlights a monumental flaw in Mourinho's likely plan to try to turn his latest trip to a big club into a snore-fest.

Only Huddersfield, Cardiff and Fulham have conceded more than United's 14 goals this season, perhaps highlighting Mourinho's moans in pre-season about the need for defensive improvements.

Some will point out that this is the same squad who conceded just 28 Premier League goals last term. However, on expected goals that tally should have been around 18 higher. They got lucky and now their luck has run out.

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Mourinho used to be an easy manager to predict in regard to style, formation and team selection, but it could be three at the back or four, while midfielders have been used in defence leaving the perception, at least from the outside, that he has lost the plot.

On their day United, with Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and the rest, have the potential to cause problems for any Premier League opponents but the Red Devils have just one win in their last five games and that victory was a shambles at times.

Unbeaten Chelsea, meanwhile, have been balanced and the players immediately picked up new boss Maurizio Sarri's ideas, helped no doubt by the arrival of Jorginho who knew the playbook inside out from their time together at Napoli.

Sarri's side are keeping pace with Manchester City and Liverpool, already seven points ahead of United, and in Eden Hazard they possess the Premier League's best player in 2018-19.

Didi Hamann: Mourinho will make Man United tough to beat
Hazard has scored seven goals and assisted another three in only 577 minutes, a ridiculously good return from the brilliant Belgian.

No doubt Hazard will be in for some rough treatment but he scored the winner against United in last season's FA Cup final and has been instrumental in Chelsea's recent successes against them at Stamford Bridge.


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Match in Focus


Albania v Scotland

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Albania have lost three of their last five games
Expert verdict
Since beating Albania 2-0 in September, Scotland have suffered back-to-back defeats including in their Nations League fixture away to a poor Israel side.But they have a gilt-edged opportunity to do so when they renew their rivalry with Albania. The hosts have also failed to win since the Hampden Park encounter and they are without Migjen Basha and Elseid Hysaj who are both banned for this fixture after picking up two yellow cards.