Man Utd returning negative xG process
Chelsea too short to support
Shot markets offer Old Trafford value
Manchester United went off as short as 1.558/15 when hosting Chelsea in Premier League action as recently as late May. Erik ten Hag was completing a positive first campaign in charge at Old Trafford with the Red Devils safely ensconced in the top-four, ending a six-year wait for silverware with the League Cup success, as well as an FA Cup final appearance.
But such has been United's decline in the following seven months, the Red Devils are now trading as big as 2.9215/8 for their midweek match-up against the Blues. Saturday's no-show at Newcastle saw Man Utd manage a single attempt on-target, losing the shot count 22-8 as ten Hag's team lost the Expected Goals (xG) battle for the eighth occasion this season.
Only Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Andre Onana escaped criticism from United's tepid performance at St James' Park. Scott McTominay has impressed of late, as has 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo, yet neither were able to get a foothold in the fixture, whilst Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were largely anonymous in forward areas.
Man Utd's problems run deep - there are asterisks over almost all of their victories across Premier League and Champions League action, and the hosts have been far from convincing at Old Trafford. The underlying metrics also paint a grim picture; the Red Devils rank 11th on Expected Points (xP), returning a negative xG process. Only four clubs are facing more shots.
Chelsea surprisingly went off as favourites when travelling to Newcastle 10 days ago and the Blues were ruthlessly dismissed. Mauricio Pochettino's team defended dreadfully on Tyneside but bounced back with a 3-2 success against Brighton on Sunday despite playing the entirety of the second-half with 10 men following Conor Gallagher's red card.
The market clearly has plenty of respect for Chelsea 2.526/4 with the Blues again favoured here in midweek. That's largely due to the Londoners' impressive underlying numbers this season; Chelsea are fifth on Expected Points (xP) and also fifth in terms of Expected Goals (xG) process having lost the xG battle just three times in EPL action under Pochettino.
Gallagher's energy will be missed this midweek, although the return from suspension of Reece James will bolster the ranks, and there's hope that star summer signing Christopher Nkunku could make a debut after a long injury layoff. But with Chelsea difficult to read, and already a little skinny in the market, I'm happy to leave the major Match Prices well alone.
With neither team trustworthy enough to back at the prices on offer, I'm much happier venturing into the various shot markets with my proposed play: Alejandro Garnacho Over 0.5 Shots on-Target and Enzo Fernandez Over 0.5 Shots offering eye-catching value at 2.0521/20 on the Sportsbook's Bet Builder.
Argentina international Garnacho scored a wonder goal against Everton less than a fortnight ago and followed that stunning strike up with another against Galatasaray in the Champions League. The 19-year-old hit the target again against Newcastle and has now landed a shot on-target in 15 of his last 18 appearances for Man Utd when playing for 45 minutes or more.
Fellow countryman Enzo Fernandez ended his wait for a first Chelsea goal when scoring twice against Brighton on Sunday. The 22-year-old also kept up his record of firing in a shot at goal in all 13 of his Premier League outings thus far, averaging an attempt every 47 minutes in EPL action this season.
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