Craig Burley said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel might deploy N’Golo Kante on Sunday in order to shut down Bruno Fernandes and Manchester United’s counter-attacking threats.
Having dealt with the Atletico Madrid challenge really well in midweek, Chelsea will face another equally, if not bigger, game against top-four rivals Man United.
While Chelsea’s eight-game unbeaten run under the new manager is certainly impressive, the visitors are also in great form, particularly away from home.
Fernandes, who has been directly involved (15 goals and 10 assists) in 47% of Man United’s goals in the league so far, is undoubtedly their biggest threat.
Burley believes Tuchel might consider introducing Kante to help the defence and deal with Fernandes, at the expense of his preferred midfield pairing.
“[Tuchel] has preferred Kovacic and Jorginho [in midfield],” the former Blues midfielder told ESPN FC.
“But I just wonder, with Bruno Fernandes playing, whether Kante will come into the side and what he [Tuchel] is going to do with Fernandes.”
Burley also believes the game at the weekend is going to be Tuchel’s biggest test so far, highlighting the visitors’ counter-attacking prowess.
“This is going to be a game where, whilst they [Chelsea] have the ball, they are really going to have players who are thinking about the other side of the game,” he added.
“The one thing [Man United] have been really, really good at is just sitting back, getting a good shape, and hitting [the opposition] with a nice long ball over the top or breaking them with a bit of pace.
“And we’ll see if Chelsea can handle that because they haven’t really played many teams that have been able to do it.”
Kante’s energy will certainly help Chelsea defensively, especially considering the pace of Man United’s forwards.
Even in the reverse fixture back in October, Man United still had a few counter-attacking opportunities despite the cagey 0-0 draw.
But with Chelsea expected to dominate the possession, Tuchel might also stick with Jorginho and Kovacic and hope to pin the visitors in their own half, similar to what they did against Atleti.