Good morning! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole
for today's early Premier League kickoff as Chelsea host Manchester United
at Stamford Bridge!
It is a latest return to the Bridge for United boss Jose Mourinho, who won three Premier League titles here, but it is Chelsea who look far better placed to lift the trophy this season as things stand having made a fine start to the campaign, whereas United's struggles have led to serious questions over the Portuguese manager's future.
We will have a look at all of that and more a little later, but let's start by checking out the team news...
CHELSEA STARTING XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante; Willian, Morata, Hazard
CHELSEA SUBS: Caballero, Cahill, Zappacosta, Fabregas, Barkley, Pedro, Giroud
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Mata, Matic, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial
MAN UTD SUBS: Romero, Bailly, Darmian, Pereira, Herrera, Fred, Sanchez
What can we make of those two teams, then?
Well, we'll start with the home side and their headline is that Antonio Rudiger is passed fit to start, despite being forced to pull out of the Germany squad with a groin injury during the recent international break.
The centre-back has now fully recovered, though, and takes his place alongside David Luiz in defence to continue his ever-present record in the Premier League this season.
There is an interesting selection at the other end of the field as Alvaro Morata is chosen to lead the line ahead of Olivier Giroud, who incidentally has recorded a league-high four assists so far this season.
Morata's form has been questioned for much of his Chelsea career, but he has scored in his last two games for the club and also netted the only goal of the corresponding fixture here last term.
Chelsea's main attacking threat is likely to come from Eden Hazard, though, with the Belgian having begun the campaign in devastating fashion - despite being given a rest in the opening weeks following his World Cup exploits.
Mourinho said in the buildup to this match that he would love to have Hazard at Old Trafford, despite a rumoured falling-out between the two during their time together at Chelsea, and he will not be longer in casting envious glances at the Blues for possessing such a talent.
Hazard is the league's top scorer with seven goals this season, and he is also the only player to have been directly involved in 10 or more goals having registered three assists as well.
has made just two changes to the team which cruised past Southampton before the international break, with Morata replacing Giroud in one and Mateo Kovacic coming in for Barkley as the other.
Barkley may feel slightly hard done by with that one considering he scored one and created another against the Saints, but Kovacic has also made a promising start to the season and gets the nod alongside Jorginho and Kante today.
As for United, they were facing something of an injury crisis heading into this match with as many as eight players considered doubtful, but in the end they have not been hit too hard.
Luke Shaw and Nemanja Matic were both forced to withdraw from their respective international squads with injuries but have recovered to start today, with the latter lining up against his former club.
One notable absentee is Alexis Sanchez, who is again left on the bench despite coming on to score the dramatic late winner in United's 3-2 win over Newcastle before the international break.
Sanchez has been out of favour in recent weeks, but his exclusion from the starting lineup tonight could also be due to the fact that he played the full 90 minutes for Chile as recently as Wednesday night, making for a very quick turnaround.
Juan Mata comes into the United starting lineup to face his former club, and another ex-Chelsea man leads the line with Romelu Lukaku bidding to end a six-match goal drought for his club.
The Belgian has actually scored more goals for his country than his club this season, and is without a goal in his 12 previous appearances at Stamford Bridge - eight of which came during his time as a Chelsea player.
Indeed, Lukaku has played in 18 Premier League matches involving the Blues - 10 for and eight against - and his only goal came in United's 2-1 win at Old Trafford earlier this year.
Mourinho has chopped and change his defence around a lot this season, and there is another switch this week as Victor Lindelof return to replace Bailly, who was hooked after just 19 minutes against Newcastle.
That is one of only two changes to the team which started that match so badly, though, with Mata's introduction in place of McTominay the other. Plenty of people would have been expecting more change from Mourinho today.
A similar first-half display to the one they produced against Newcastle is not likely to get them very far against this Chelsea side, who have really hit the ground running under Maurizio Sarri
The new manager has come in from Napoli and almost immediately turned them into a team that looks like genuine title challengers. Indeed, even a draw today would take them clear at the top of the Premier League table, above Manchester City and Liverpool.
Of course, Chelsea will be gunning for all three points rather than just one in order to put maximum pressure on the other members of the leading pack, who both play later this afternoon.
Only goal difference separates the unbeaten trio after eight games of the season, but it is Chelsea who have the more difficult match this week with Man City hosting Burnley and Liverpool taking on winless Huddersfield.
Chelsea have only ever gone unbeaten for the first nine games of a Premier League season on two previous occasions, and both times they went on to win the title - in 2005-06 under Mourinho and then again in 2014-15.
The Blues will do very well to repeat that achievement again this season considering the competition in the league at the moment, but they are already seven points better off than at the same stage last term so they have certainly made an encouraging start.
Chelsea had drawn two league games on the bounce before returning to winning ways with a 3-0 triumph over Southampton before the international break, with Hazard, Barkley and Morata all on the scoresheet at St Mary's.
That took their tally up to 18 goals scored in their opening eight games - something only Man City and Arsenal can beat - while they have only conceded five goals in that time too - a record only Man City and Liverpool can better.
Indeed, across all competitions Sarri's side have now kept four clean sheets in their last six games across all competitions.
The Blues come into this match unbeaten in their last 11 games since the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City, which remains Sarri's only loss at the helm so far.
Nine of those matches have ended in victory too, while in the Premier League alone Chelsea have now lost just one of their last 15 outings, winning 10 of those. The solitary defeat came on the final day of last season.
Here at Stamford Bridge Chelsea are unbeaten in nine games, including six wins, with their last defeat on home turf coming at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of April.
So far this season the Blues have won four and lost none of their five outings at the Bridge, and they also boast a formidable record here against Manchester United in particularly, so confidence will be high of another victory today.
However, Chelsea could improve on their record against their closest rivals and may well need to if they are to challenge the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool for the Premier League title this season.
Chelsea have earned eight points from their last eight games against teams that finished in last season's top four, failing to score more than once in any of those games.
If Chelsea were to hand-pick a top-four opponent to face right now, though, it would no doubt be Manchester United in their current shape, with the Red Devils have endured a very difficult start to the season on and off the field.
Results have been poor, and as if that wasn't enough there have also been countless reports of unrest behind the scenes and growing speculation over the future of manager Jose Mourinho - something which is sure to fire up again if he loses at the ground he was once revered at this afternoon.
Ultimately, for all the fallouts and rows, football is a results-based business and the simple fact of the matter right now is that United's results have been nowhere near good enough this season.
The Red Devils have lost three of their opening eight Premier League games, and another defeat here would make it four from their opening nine for the first time since 1990. They have also been dumped out of the EFL Cup at home to Championship side Derby County and only in their last match ended a four-game winless streak across all competitions.
All of that has contributed to Manchester United sitting seven points worse off than at the same stage of last season, and defeat to Chelsea today would ensure that they equal their lowest points tally after nine games of a Premier League season - last set in 2014-15.
Mourinho's men begin the weekend sitting eighth in the table, already five points adrift of the top five and seven off the pace of the leading pack. Should they lose here then that gap would grow to 10 - already approaching the realms of unassailable.
Mourinho will be hoping that some momentum has carried over from their last outing, although this is not an ideal match with which to follow that up and the international break may have come at exactly the wrong time for them.
Even so, the manner of their 3-2 victory over Newcastle before the break will have helped to lift the gloom around the club as United scored three goals in the final 20 minutes to come from two goals down and pull off a much-needed victory against the winless Magpies - a sign that perhaps these players are willing to fight for Mourinho.
Of course, beyond the rousing comeback is the fact that they fell two goals down to Newcastle at home within the opening 10 minutes - something which shouldn't happen to a club like Manchester United - and at that stage it looked as though Mourinho's fate was well and truly sealed.
Reports before the match suggested that he would be sacked regardless of the result, but the nature of the comeback may just have been enough to save him for now. The irony of it being three players he has fallen out with - Mata, Martial and Sanchez - who got the goals will not be lost on most fans.
The win will not paper over the cracks, though, and speculation over Mourinho's future will no doubt flare up again unless his side are able to build on that result today and in the coming weeks, when they face a difficult run against Juventus and Everton in their next two games.
One area United do need to improve is defensively, having kept just one clean sheet in the league this season. Mourinho is usually a defensive master, but his side have conceded 14 league goals already this season - a tally it took them 19 games to reach last term. Only Fulham, Cardiff and Huddersfield have conceded more.
United have also lost three of their last six Premier League away games and could lose successive ones for the first time since February following their defeat to West Ham in their most recent trip.
That loss at the London Stadium also extended a surprisingly poor record for the Red Devils in London, with eight defeats from their last 13 matches in the capital - as many losses as they had suffered in their previous 39 visits.
On top of that, Mourinho has lost all three of his competitive away games against Chelsea as United boss and has only beaten his former employers at Stamford Bridge once before - with Inter Milan in 2010.
Right, we're 10 minutes away from kickoff at Stamford Bridge, which means that it is time for a prediction!
It will be interesting to see whether United have been given a lift by their last result, but either way this looks like a difficult fixture for them. Chelsea are in good form and will be favourites to come out on top here, and we agree.
SPORTS MOLE SAYS: Chelsea 2-0 Man Utd
United actually have a woeful record here at Stamford Bridge, winning just one of their last 16 Premier League visits, with 10 defeats in that time. The solitary victory also saw Chelsea have two players sent off, with United running out 3-2 winners in October 2012.
In their six visits since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, United have lost five and failed to win any of their matches at Stamford Bridge, including losing all three of their games under Mourinho by an aggregate scoreline of 0-6.
Home or away, United have lost 18 Premier League matches against Chelsea - more defeats than they have suffered against any other team in the competition.
Indeed, Chelsea are one of only two teams - along with Brighton - to have beaten United more often than United have beaten them in the Premier League era.
United did win the last Premier League meeting between these two sides, though, running out 2-1 winners at Old Trafford in February, and they could today win consecutive league matches against the Blues for the first time since 2011.
The most recent meeting in any competition came in May's FA Cup final, though, when Eden Hazard's penalty proved to be the only goal of the game at Wembley.
Right, we're almost ready to get going at Stamford Bridge! A reminder of the team news before we do get going...
CHELSEA STARTING XI: Kepa; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Rudiger, Alonso; Jorginho, Kovacic, Kante; Willian, Morata, Hazard
MAN UTD STARTING XI: De Gea; Young, Lindelof, Smalling, Shaw; Mata, Matic, Pogba; Rashford, Lukaku, Martial
KICKOFF: Here we go! Chelsea get us underway at Stamford Bridge!
Far too easy for Chelsea to get in as Willian skips past Shaw and to the byline. His cross is cleared as far as Hazard, who cannot catch his volley perfectly and United can hack it away.
It is Chelsea applying the early pressure here, keeping United pinned back in the opening exchanges. Morata has his first chance to attack an aerial ball into the area, but Smalling deals with the danger well.
United have the chance to make their first break forward following some good control from Mata, but then they slow it all down and Chelsea are able to get back into shape. It needs to be quicker from the visitors when they get the ball forward.
United have been heavy-handed with Hazard so far and he is clattered by Young in the air before taking a quick free kick and winning another foul right on the edge of the box. Chance for the hosts to test De Gea here...
SHOT! Alonso, Luiz and Willian are all standing over the ball and it is the latter who gets the nod, but he may not be getting the next one. The Brazilian fires a poor effort high and wide of the target.
YELLOW CARD! Matic becomes the first name in the book for a trip on Hazard, although this is quite a harsh one. Definite foul, but that might be a warning sign to the other United players that the ref will not tolerate too many more fouls on Hazard.
Kovacic goes sliding in on Matic now and Mike Dean awards a free kick to United this time, although Mourinho and Ashley Young immediately call for a yellow card for the Chelsea man too. This time the ref keeps his cards in his pocket.
CHANCE! The resulting free kick eventually leads to United's first chance of the match as Shaw lifts a second ball into the box. Lukaku climbs highest, but his header back across goal drifts wide of the target.
This is better from United now as they see more of the ball and keep Chelsea under some pressure. They have peppered the Chelsea box with crosses in the last few minutes.
Kovacic slides a ball down the left channel for Hazard before drilling a low ball across the box, but there are no blue shirts in support and Shaw is able to put it behind for a corner.
GOAL! CHELSEA 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED (ANTONIO RUDIGER)
First blood to Chelsea, and it is Rudiger - a doubt for this match - who breaks the deadlock!
It comes from a corner as Rudiger escapes the attentions of Paul Pogba, before meeting the ball with a stooping header which bounces past De Gea, who had no chance. Pogba remonstrates with his teammates after the goal, but it looked to be him at fault.
Mourinho will not be happy with that goal at all - it was such an easy one to give away. Set piece goals always irk managers, and it is not what an under-pressure one needs at his former club!
It had actually been a fairly even opening 20 minutes at Stamford Bridge, with both teams enjoying spells in the ascendency, but Chelsea will be looking to kick on now after that opener. United need a response.
YELLOW CARD! Hazard is once again left in a heap on the floor, this time after Young came through the back of him. Young duly goes into the book.
Muted calls for a penalty as Luiz clumsily bumps into Rashford inside the box, but it looked to be a coming together rather than a foul and referee Mike Dean waves the claims away.
YELLOW CARD! Rudiger is the latest player to be shown a card for an aerial challenge on Pogba.
CHANCE! Rudiger lifts a pass over the defence and finds Alonso completely unmarked inside the area, with United's defenders nowhere to be seen. It would be a golden opportunity if Alonso is able to pull the ball down, but his touch lets him down and it runs through to De Gea.
Here is the goal which separates the two sides, and the poor Pogba marking which has cost United so far...
YELLOW CARD! Hazard has forced a few yellow cards today, but here he picks up one of his own for a cynical trip on Rashford.
Chelsea are knocking the ball around confidently at the moment and continue to look the most likely to score here. United have not really trouble Kepa at all so far with their one half-chance seeing Lukaku head off target.
As you'd expect under Sarri, Chelsea have comfortably out-passed their opponents so far today, and the influence of the likes of Jorginho in midfield is helping them to exert control over this game.
United are still very much in this match as we approach half time, but they need to show more going forward in the second half if they are to get themselves back into this one.
Morata has not been good enough with his back to goal so far today. He has struggled to hold the ball up and bring others into play and Sarri may be considering bringing Giroud on if that continues in the second half.
There will be two minutes of added time at the end of this first half.
HALF TIME: CHELSEA 1-0 MANCHESTER UNITED
The first half comes to an end at Stamford Bridge, and it is Chelsea who lead at half time against Manchester United and former manager Jose Mourinho.
It has been a fairly even match on the whole, with clear chances at a premium, but one moment of lacklustre defending from the visitors has cost them so far.
Antonio Rudiger got the only goal of the game so far when he was able to escape his marker Paul Pogba from a corner, planting a firm header past a helpless De Gea.
It was far too easy for the hosts, with Pogba lacking a crucial moment of concentration to allow Rudiger to get away. Pogba was fuming afterwards, seemingly putting the blame on Lindelof, but it was he who lost his man.
Aside from that, chances have been very difficult to come by for either side. Chelsea have had a couple of sights, with Willian firing one free kick high and wide and Alonso seeing a poor touch let him down inside the area, but the goal has been their only really clear opening.
United's one and only goalscoring opportunity came with the score still at 0-0, when Lukaku rose highest inside the area but steered his header off target.
Chelsea have enjoyed the lion's share of possession and have had six shots to United's one so far, so if either side deserve to be ahead then it is the hosts.
United, for their part, need to push higher up the pitch and offer more of an attacking threat having been quite toothless in that opening 45 minutes.
KICKOFF: Manchester United get us back underway for the second half at Stamford Bridge!
CHANCE! Early chance for Chelsea at the start of this second half as this time Morata does use the ball well with his back to goal. He collects a pass before turning Matic smartly, but his left-footed finish lacks the power to beat De Gea in the United goal.
Concern for Chelsea here as Hazard stays down inside the box after being caught by Young. The Belgian is slow to get up and is not moving freely at all at the moment. One to keep a close eye on.
David Luiz bursts into the box having linked up really well with Hazard. The defender cuts inside, but Smalling watches him the whole way and makes an important block.
The resulting corner is fizzed into the front post and again Rudiger has got in front of Pogba, but he cannot get anything on it and De Gea punches it clear.
Better from Lukaku and Pogba as they work the ball out of a tight space, but once again their attack eventually slows down. They need to build on their attacking impetus more when it comes.
GOAL! CHELSEA 1-1 MANCHESTER UNITED (ANTHONY MARTIAL)
Manchester United have the equaliser as Martial smashes a loose ball home from inside the area!
It is a messy goal for the hosts to concede as they fail to clear the lines despite having a few chances to do so. Mata draws a fine save from Kepa with a deflected volley from inside the area, but the danger has not gone and Young eventually works it back into the area.
The ball takes a touch off Jorginho and falls into the path of Martial, whose first touch is perfect and he then fires his finish past the keeper. Alonso was down on the ground injured right in front of Martial and had he been on his feet he would have closed it down, but Martial took full advantage.
SHOT! United have the wind in their sails now and Pogba tries his luck from range, but his effort is never troubling Kepa's goal.
That goal, incidentally, is the first that United have scored at Stamford Bridge since Mourinho took over as manager. Plenty of time for Chelsea to respond, though, or for United to push on for a winner.
Another dangerous Chelsea corner arrives in the box which De Gea comes for but doesn't reach. The throng of bodies in front of him just about do enough to smuggle it clear, though.
Pogba turns in midfield and plays the ball into the path of Lukaku, but Luiz watches the ball all the way and wins the one-on-one battle between the pair. Good defending.
Chelsea win a free kick in a good crossing position, but Willian is in no rush to take it - to the point that Azpilicueta tells him to speed things up.
CHANCE! Willian does eventually lift the cross into the box and finds an unmarked David Luiz, who can only glance his header wide of the target when he should have done better.
YELLOW CARD! Mata goes into the book for a crunching challenge on Azpilicueta when chasing the ball. Not the type of tackle we are used to seeing from him!
CHELSEA SUB: Chelsea make the first change of the game as Ross Barkley replaces Kovacic.
SAVE! De Gea is called into action here as Kante lets fly from just outside the area, drilling a low drive towards the bottom corner. The United keeper makes a strong one-handed stop, though.
GOAL! CHELSEA 1-2 MANCHESTER UNITED (ANTHONY MARTIAL)
What a turnaround from United in this second half! Martial has his second, and the visitors have the lead!
Mata skips past Luiz down the right flank before playing a pass inside for Rashford, who in turn picks out a perfect pass to find Martial on the left side of the area. The Frenchman takes a touch and then bends his finish into the far bottom corner past Kepa.
MAN UTD SUB: Change for the visitors here as Mata is replaced by Ander Herrera.
Chelsea win a free kick in a good crossing position and the ball is played out to Alonso at the far post, but he gets his attempted volley back inside all wrong and a good attacking platform goes begging.
CHELSEA SUB: Another change for Chelsea sees Olivier Giroud come on in a straight swap for Morata.
CHANCE! Almost a chance for United to put this game to bed! The ball breaks through for Herrera, who suddenly finds himself one on one with the keeper. He never seems truly confident, though, and Kepa comes out to thwart him.
Chelsea's fans and players are getting increasingly riled here as Rashford goes down and needs treatment. It looks like he is going to be taken off, with two United players on the sidelines, but the visitors seem to change their mind as to who is coming off on a couple of occasions.
MAN UTD SUB: One of those changes is eventually made after a long stoppage, and surprisingly it is Martial who is replaced by Andreas Pereira.
MAN UTD SUB: Here is that second change too, with Alexis Sanchez coming on for Rashford.
We could have a fair chunk of stoppage time after that Rashford treatment a moment ago, but United have just three minutes left of normal time to hold out here. This would be a huge result for Mourinho's side.
Chelsea are seeing all of the ball right now, but they haven't shown many signs of breaking through this United defence since falling behind.
There will be SIX minutes of added time at the end of this match. Still time for Chelsea!
Shouts from Chelsea for a penalty as Giroud goes down under the challenge of Lindelof, but referee Mike Dean is having none of it.
YELLOW CARD! Alexis Sanchez goes into the book for a cynical challenge to prevent a counter.
GOAL! CHELSEA 2-2 MANCHESTER UNITED (ROSS BARKLEY)
Incredible drama at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea steal a late equaliser! It is a scramble in the area which eventually sees Ross Barkley lash the ball home after De Gea had made a good save to deny an initial effort.
The focus quickly switches to the touchline, though, with Mourinho reacting to a comment from a member of the Chelsea staff and a big melee following. Remarkable scenes!
The game has still not restarted with the players now involved in a ruckus on the field!
FULL TIME: CHELSEA 2-2 MANCHESTER UNITED
Wow, what an incredible end that was to the game!
Chelsea looked on course for their first league defeat of the season and United on course for a very rare win at Stamford Bridge, but Ross Barkley rescued a point for the hosts, sparking a melee on the touchline between the coaching staff.
Rudiger had earlier given Chelsea the lead before a brace from Anthony Martial turned the game in United's favour, but ultimately they fell just short of what would have been a priceless victory.
Right, that is all we have time for this afternoon!
Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for today's match as Chelsea rescue a dramatic late draw with Manchester United at Stamford Bridge! I will leave you with our match report, and be sure to stick around for reaction too.
From me, though, it is goodbye for now!