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Manchester United vs. Chelsea: Five key battles

Ahead of Manchester United vs. Chelsea, Sports Mole assesses five battles that could determine which side will win the match.

It may only be the second game of the new Premier League season for these two clubs, but Monday night's meeting will give Manchester United and Chelsea a chance to strike an early blow in the title race.

As is so often the way in contests between the country's biggest teams, the outcome can be decided by the smallest of margins.

So, with that in mind, Sports Mole has selected five separate battles on the pitch that could go a long way to determining who will claim the three points at Old Trafford.

Michael Carrick vs. Frank Lampard

Although these two both ply their trade in the centre of the pitch, they are different players. Lampard will look to get forward and score goals, while Carrick is more content to sit in front of his back four. Nevertheless, both will be expected to keep hold of possession and use their experience, particularly during the early stages when the pace of the match is bound to be quick.

Michael Carrick blocks a cross from Frank Lampard.© Getty Images

Patrice Evra vs. Eden Hazard

It's no secret that Evra is not the defensive force that he once was. In fact, many opposition teams in recent months have identified the 32-year-old as one of United's major weak links. While Hazard is often given licence to roam in the attacking third, he could well be instructed to operate on the right-hand side of the pitch and apply pressure to the Frenchman. Evra is a left-back that likes to get forward as well whenever the opportunity arises and Jose Mourinho will expect arguably his most creative player to carry out the dirty work whenever necessary.

Nemanja Vidic vs. Fernando Torres

Spanish frontman Torres was not even in the Chelsea squad on Wednesday evening when Aston Villa visited Stamford Bridge, so it may appear strange to suggest that he will be immediately reinstalled to the starting lineup tomorrow. It's worth noting, though, that Torres has given Vidic some terrible times down the years, particularly during his stint with Liverpool. During the 2008-09, the Serbian centre-back was sent off in both matches that he faced Torres. He may not pose the same threat that he once did on Merseyside, but Torres's presence may still be a cause of concern for the United skipper.

Fernando Torres beats Nemanja Vidic on his way to scoring for Liverpool.© Andrew Yates / Getty Images

Antonio Valencia vs. Ashley Cole

For so long Cole was regarded to be the best left-back in European football, who more often than not came out on top against the majority of right wingers that he faced. However, since his arrival at United in 2009, Valencia has enjoyed some success against the Chelsea defender. The Ecuador international is also a hard-working wideman that will do his fair share of defending in an attempt to nullify the offensive Cole.

Robin van Persie vs. John Terry

Chelsea captain Terry did not feature in either of his side's encounters against the champions last term, meaning that he did not come up against Van Persie. During the previous season, though, when the Dutch centre-forward was still an Arsenal player, his movement embarrassed Terry as he netted a hat-trick in a 5-3 victory for the Gunners. Terry may be a brave and solid defender, but he is not the most mobile of footballers - something that Van Persie may aim to exploit.

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Willian of FC Anzhi Makhachkala in action during the Russian Premier League match between FC Dinamo Moscow and FC Anzhi Makhachkala at the Arena Khimki Stadium on July 19, 2013
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
CManchester CityMan City38275683325186
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd382111673442974
3Liverpool38209968422669
4Chelsea381910958362267
5Leicester CityLeicester382061268501866
6West Ham UnitedWest Ham381981162471565
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs381881268452362
8Arsenal381871355391661
9Leeds UnitedLeeds38185156254859
10Everton38178134748-159
11Aston Villa38167155546955
12Newcastle UnitedNewcastle38129174662-1645
13Wolverhampton WanderersWolves38129173652-1645
14Crystal Palace38128184166-2544
15Southampton38127194768-2143
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton38914154046-641
17Burnley38109193355-2239
RFulham38513202753-2628
RWest Bromwich AlbionWest Brom38511223576-4126
RSheffield UnitedSheff Utd3872292063-4323

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