Chelsea target United revenge … in League Cup at Stamford

Chelsea have the opportunity to avenge their opening-day defeat to Manchester United when the two sides renew hostilities in the last-16 of the EFL Cup tonight.

United ran out 4-0 winners at Old Trafford to get their Premier League campaign off to a dream start in August, but the fortunes of both sides have varied greatly since then and Chelsea will welcome their opponents to Stamford Bridge as favourites to progress.

It all looked so promising for Manchester United and so bleak for Chelsea after these two sides last met, with United producing an attacking display full of energy, intensity and youthful exuberance to run out 4-0 winners over a Chelsea side coming off the back of a summer transfer window which saw them lose their best player and be denied the chance to replace him by a FIFA ban.

Fast forward, two-and-a-half months and the roles have more or less been reversed; Chelsea are the team brimming with exciting young talent whereas United are now eagerly awaiting the next transfer window in order to bolster their squad.

The four-goal drubbing at Old Trafford may have been harsh on Chelsea, but it also acted as a valuable lesson for Frank Lampard on his Premier League managerial debut, and the club legend appears to now be warming to life in the Stamford Bridge dugout.

After winning just two of his opening eight matches in charge, Lampard has now overseen a run of seven successive wins across all competitions which have lifted the Blues into the top four of the Premier League and to the top of their Champions League group.

Win number seven came in some style as Christian Pulisic’s perfect hat-trick inspired them to a 4-2 victory at Burnley on Saturday, although the two they conceded late on were another reminder of the biggest area for improvement needed under Lampard.

Only Manchester City and Leicester City have scored more goals in the Premier League this season, but only the bottom three have conceded more too, and Chelsea will know that any chance of silverware this term will require them to fix those holes at the back.

The EFL Cup provides Lampard with his first chance to get an early trophy under his belt, and they certainly made a confident start in their quest to reach a second successive final by hammering Grimsby Town 7-1 in the previous round – a result which kicked off their winning streak.

United will provide sterner opposition than Grimsby, of course, but you have to go back to January 2013 for the last time Chelsea lost an EFL Cup game at home and their recent form will make them all the more confident of redeeming themselves for the last meeting between these two sides.

Lampard may wish that this game had come a week earlier, though, with United beginning to enjoy a change in form during a seven-day spell which saw them become the first team to take points off Liverpool and win back-to-back away games against Partizan Belgrade and Norwich City.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had not won on the road in any competition since March prior to that, while Sunday’s victory over Norwich was their first away from home in the Premier League for exactly eight months.

It was also the first time in 13 matches since the opening-day edition of this fixture that United had managed to score more than one goal in a game, and their three-goal haul could have been greater had Tim Krul not saved two penalties too.

The Red Devils have a torrid record from the spot in recent times and will therefore be hopeful that this match does not go to a shootout – which will be the case if it is all square after 90 minutes.

In other games today, Liverpool will welcome Arsenal to Anfield, while Aston Villa entertain Wolves at the Villa Park. – SportsMole

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