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.

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
1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
3Liverpool23138254282647
4Chelsea23145441162547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
6Arsenal23116641301139
7Burnley239771920-134
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
9Everton2376102538-1327
10Watford2375113342-926
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
13Bournemouth2366112435-1124
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
17Southampton2349102334-1121
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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