Millions of football aficionados will be glued to their television screens when fifth-ranked Manchester United host leaders Chelsea in the English Premier League on Sunday.
Well, for starters it will see Jose Mourinho face the club he made a European giant and will be looking to get revenge for the 4-0 drubbing United suffered at the hands of Antonio Conte’s men back in September.
And with second-placed Tottenham Hotspur not too far away, Chelsea will be wary of slipping up at Old Trafford, but a win against a determined United looks difficult, with a draw the most likely outcome.
It’s been a difficult season for United, despite winning the Community Shield and Carling Cup. Let’s not forget, they have a strong chance of making the UEFA Europa League semifinals, so qualifying for the Champions League via that route is looking likelier by the second.
In the Premier League, however, United have been disappointing, there is no escaping that fact. Overly dependent on Zlatan Ibrahimovic to save them week in-week out, the Red Devils have often struggled to close out games. The Swede’s fellow summer signings Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan need to justify their considerable transfer fees by scripting an upset at Old Trafford on Sunday.
A task easier said than done, but if Tottenham and Crystal Palace have proven anything this season, it is that Chelsea are not invulnerable.
David de Gea looks set to start, a major boost for the Red Devils and despite having travelled to Belgium in midweek, there can be no excuses for failing to pick up at least a point at home.
What they are saying: “You say it’s emotional but, for me, it’s a game,”. It’s one more game. No different for me. Not at all.” (Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho as per www.manutd.com)
Injury absentees: Juan Mata (groin), Chris Smalling (Knee), Phil Jones (Toe), Wayne Rooney (Ankle), Ashley Young (Knock)
Suspension Alert: None
Chelsea are almost in the home stretch, with trips to Manchester United and Everton the last ‘big’ games of the season left.
Should they beat United on Sunday, the title race might just be over, but Mourinho will set out his team in an extremely compact formation which will make them extremely difficult to beat.
Blues Winger Eden Hazard is at his mercurial best at the moment, but will need Diego Costa to get out of his mini-drought if the Blues are to walk away with three points. The snarling Spaniard put in a good shift against Bournemouth last week but a striker is paid to score and that is exactly what he will have to do to keep Chelsea’s title-charge on track.
The Blues have already gotten the better of the Red Devils twice this season (once in the league and once in the FA Cup) and with the benefit of no midweek matches, the away side are in the ascendancy.
What they are saying: “My expectation is there will be a tough game, but when I think about a tough game I involve the tactical aspect, the physical aspect and the mental aspect, not only one aspect. You must have a good impact physically, tactically and also with the right mentality.” (Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as per www.chelseafc.com)