Manchester United players during a practice session
London: Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has said he expects Chelsea to be in the thick of the Premier League title battle ahead of their meeting at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Both Manchester clubs (United and Manchester City) are yet to drop a point between them, while their strikers have been scoring for fun. Chelsea, though, have largely been ignored.
However, when Chelsea head to Old Trafford, Ferguson anticipates United will be taking on one of their biggest challengers for the title.
They will be there at the end of the season, there is no doubt about that, said Feurguson.
At the moment, of course, the two Manchester teams are enjoying the publicity that comes from the predictions that they are going to be involved in the winning of the league.
In the background lurks Chelsea. They dont need the publicity. They will be enjoying being out of the profile at the moment.
Chelsea, however, are also unbeaten and have won three in succession after an opening-day goalless draw at Stoke. Coach Andre Villas-Boas was clear about the magnitude of the task facing the Londoners.
We face Man United perhaps in their most tremendous moment of motivation and flair and style and a team that has made its impact at the beginning of the Premiership, different from last year, he told the clubs website.
Chelsea had enjoyed the better of recent confrontations between the teams until last season, when United recovered from losing the opening meeting between the teams to win three on the trot in just over a month, including both legs of a Champions League quarter final.
It will be a fantastic game, Ferguson said. The games between both sides over the last seven years have been very close affairs.
There is usually just one goal in it and it will be very tight on Sunday again.
Ferguson has also been impressed with the manner in which Andre Villas-Boas, the 33 year-old Chelsea manager, has adapted to his new surroundings.
The new coach has started very well. For a young man who has come to Chelsea, it is a great challenge.
It is a hard challenge at his age but when you go to a new club, you hope you get an immediate response. He has got that.
They are a team with great experience and they will always be a challenge to us, said the veteran coach. Ferguson reported no fresh injury concerns, with captain Nemanja Vidic (calf), Tom Cleverley (foot) and Rafael (shoulder) still out, while Danny Welbeck (hamstring) is not expected to be available until next weeks encounter with Stoke.
Meanwhile, Villas-Boass new signings Juan Mata and Raul Meireles will have a test to pass while the search is still on for the spark that will ignite misfiring striker Fernando Torres.
It provokes a good challenge and I think motivation will be the key factor in the game and hopefully (we can) come back from Old Trafford with a win. We will go there to try to win it and lets see how it happens. It will be a very good game, said Villas-Boas.
Uniteds bitter-rivals City have also made a perfect start with Argentine striker Sergio Aguero having already repaid a large slice of his transfer fee from Atletico Madrid by hitting six goals, including a hat-trick against Wigan last weekend. City travel to the capital to take on Fulham on Sunday.
Liverpool, who suffered their first defeat of the season in a 1-0 loss at Stoke on Saturday, are also in London to take on Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Manager Kenny Dalglish met with referees chief Mike Riley this week after being unhappy with the officiating at Stoke.
Premier League debutants Swansea — yet to score a goal in four games — will look to end that drought and pick up a first three points when West Bromwich Albion visit Wales on Saturday. As well as Fulham and Swansea, three other sides have yet to register a win.
Bottom club Blackburn Rovers take on Arsenal at home in the Saturday lunchtime kick-off and Norwich City, with two points from four games, visit Bolton on Saturday.
Sunderland, who have so far failed to replicate last seasons form which earned a 10th-place finish, host Stoke on Sunday.