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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Conte ready to take the battle to Mourinho's United

Feud may end with honours even

Antonio Conte and Jose Mourinho are all set for a tactical battle
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 2.05pm Sunday

All eyes will be on the touchline as rival managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte go head-to-head for the first time since their latest war of words, and the off-field action could be more exciting than what Manchester United and Chelsea serve up at Old Trafford.

Neither boss puts entertainment towards the top of his priorities so expect a tense tussle and sideline histrionics after Conte fuelled the managerial feud by suggesting Mourinho has senile dementia. The former Chelsea coach responded with a dig at the Italian for his match-fixing ban.

Don't expect the pair to share a bottle of red at the full-time whistle but they could split the points in a low-scoring contest.

The reverse fixture was close – Alvaro Morata's header proved the difference – and Mourinho's mindset in these elite clashes is obvious.

It was highlighted again on Wednesday as United grimly held on for a goalless draw at Sevilla in the Champions League to match the 0-0 at Liverpool earlier in the season. 

Even at Old Trafford it is unlikely the Manchester men will be over-ambitious as they sat back for large spells of the 2-1 derby defeat to City and 1-0 win over Tottenham which came courtesy of a late Anthony Martial strike.

None of United's last 11 matches has featured goals at both ends, in part thanks to the brilliance of Red Devils keeper David de Gea and a continuation of a long-standing issue with Romelu Lukaku.

It has often been said that flat-track bully Lukaku fails to turn up in big matches and none of his goals this season have come against opponents who started the weekend in the top eight.

Paul Pogba appears strangely subdued and Alexis Sanchez has failed to fire since signing from Arsenal. But Chelsea are not at their best either despite a much-improved performance in Tuesday's 1-1 Champions League draw with Barcelona.

Willian and Eden Hazard, who will be free from his usual man-marker in this contest with Ander Herrera injured, are the two who could hurt United but Conte will almost certainly show United plenty of respect considering Chelsea are at risk of failing to finish in the top four.

Chelsea are the reigning champions but won only once away to the big six last season and this term has been a similar story with draws at Arsenal and Liverpool as well as a League Cup exit at the Emirates.

They did beat Tottenham at Wembley, although that fixture was heading for a 1-1 draw until a last-gasp Marcos Alonso strike, and these well-matched sides could be heading for a stalemate.

Recommendations
No goalscorer
0.5pt 17-2 Betfred, Hills, Sky Bet
1-1 draw
0.5pt 6-1 Hills

Premier League standings

Bet on this game at Soccerbase.com

Team news
Man Utd
Jose Mourinho has said none of his injured players - Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind, Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - will return and Ander Herrera has joined those on the sidelines. 

Chelsea
David Luiz, Ross Barkley and Tiemoue Bakayoko have been ruled out.

Key stat
Seven of the last eight meetings have featured under 2.5 goals.


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Paul Pogba appears strangely subdued and Alexis Sanchez has failed to fire since signing from Arsenal
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