London: After impressive away wins at Arsenal and Tottenham, Chelsea can knock over an even bigger English Premier League rival when Manchester United visits Stamford Bridge on Sunday in the highest-profile match of the season so far.
The European champions have won seven of their eight league matches to power into a four-point lead, with the manner of their victories just as impressive as the results.
Roberto di Matteo has been keen to play down his side’s title chances at this early stage but bringing down second-place United would make that stance untenable.
With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney working well in tandem, United have the firepower to worry a Chelsea defence that will be without suspended captain John Terry. But Alex Ferguson’s side have been uncharacteristically sloppy at the back this season, conceding first in eight of their 12 matches.
“I can’t get to the bottom of it I am afraid,” Ferguson said. “If you analyse the goals we are losing, they have come from throw-ins, crosses, cut-backs, all sorts, and they are finding players free in the box. “It is difficult to put your finger on it, and it is a concern because it is making it difficult for us.”
Manchester City is level on points with United and can put the pressure on the top two by beating Swansea on Saturday for City to maintain their unbeaten start.
Fourth-place Everton host Liverpool in the Merseyside derby on Sunday in the weekend’s other big match, while England midfielder Jack Wilshere could make his long-awaited return to Arsenal’s first team in the home match against last-place Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
Tottenham visit Southampton on Sunday as they look to rebound from a 4-2 home loss to Chelsea last weekend that ended a four-match winning run.
While Chelsea are unbeaten in the league, the team fell to the first loss in their defence of the Champions League title with a 2-1 defeat at Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.