After a thumping win in the Manchester derby, United travel to Stamford Bridge to face the league leaders with nothing but a win required to keep their faint hope of even competing for the title alive.
Chelsea meanwhile are huffing and puffing their way towards the podium where they should in all likelihood be crowned champions. It will take something dramatic for a virtual 10 point lead at the top to be blown, and if it were to happen, only a defeat at the hands of the third place team will trigger that.
However, Chelsea are unbeaten at home this season and secured a late win at Loftus Road last weekend in a drab game that inched them closer to being champions. Their opponents on the other hand dismantled Manchester City and are enjoying their best form under Louis van Gaal. Tottenham, Liverpool and Aston Villa have been beaten convincingly in a run of six consecutive wins which has made them the league’s in form team along with 2nd placed Arsenal.
Also adding spice to one of the historically biggest clashes in the Premier League is the duel between Jose Mourinho and Van Gaal who worked together at Barcelona. The Portuguese was van Gaal’s assistant at Barcelona from 1997 to 2000 and the pair continue to remain good friends till date. They also faced each other on the biggest stage of them all, the Champions League final back in 2010 when Inter Milan beat Bayern Munich 2-0.
Having started in the reverse fixture, Didier Drogba might once again take the place of Diego Costa with Loic Remy also struggling with a calf injury.
United are sweating over Michael Carrick’s fitness after the player limped off in the derby last Sunday. Robin van Persie and Luke Shaw have both returned to training, though they are unlikely to start. Phil Jones too was forced off with a knock in the last game but he should be back. Jonny Evans remains suspended.
Past Five Meetings
26 Oct 2014 Manchester United 1 – 1 Chelsea Premier League
19 Jan 2014 Chelsea 3 – 1 Manchester United Premier League
26 Aug 2013 Manchester United 0 – 0 Chelsea Premier League
05 May 2013 Manchester United 0 – 1 Chelsea Premier League
31 Oct 2012 Chelsea 3(5) – 3(4) Manchester United League Cup
- Chelsea are unbeaten in 11 Premier League games.
- Manchester United have won their last six games in a row, scoring 15 goals against 4.
- Chelsea’s last home defeat in the Premier League came almost exactly one year ago (April 19, 2014 v Sunderland).
- Chelsea are undefeated in their last 7 matches against Manchester United in all competitions.
- Only Chelsea has a better overall winning record against Manchester United since the inception of the Premier League.
- Jose Mourinho is yet to be beaten as a manager against Manchester United since his side beat them 1-0 in August 2004 in what was his first Premier League game as a manager.
Chelsea: Eden Hazard
Chelsea have had a few outstanding individual seasons so far from the likes of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Nemanja Matic and John Terry. And barring perhaps Terry, nonehave been as consistent as the sumptuous Eden Hazard who is going to be crowned the PFA player of the season, while also being the favourite to grab the Young player of the year award, something which he has done in five of his last seasons as a professional footballer.
Hazard has scored as many goals as United’s top scorer Wayne Rooney (12), and in the absence of Diego Costa, you can safely bet that most of Chelsea’s attacks would come down their left flank. His eight assists this campaign place him fourth in that category, but these two stats don’t do justice to his overall contribution this season. An incredible 148 successful dribbles, 46 more than any other player along with 88 chances created, the most in the league highlight his emergence as a world class player in the bracket just below Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Hazard has just one goal against Manchester United since joining Chelsea, but that was a sublime curler at Old Trafford. On Saturday, he will be the biggest threat and Antonio Valencia who has done a solid job at right back will be up against his biggest test yet.
Manchester United – Juan Mata
With three goals and an assist in the last three Premier League games, Juan Mata returns to his former club in fine form. On Saturday, he will have a point to prove at the ground where he was twice voted the club’s Player of the Year and it will be the stuff footballing stories are made of, if he were to add to his goals against Liverpool and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on his first visit as an opposition player.
Speaking about his time at Chelsea, he said, “I tried my best in training and in every game with the minutes that I had but when United came it was a great option for me to carry on with my career. I just wanted to go to a place where I feel happy. And I am now. This is a massive club and this move is perfect for me.”
Mata was allowed to leave in January 2014 for £37.1m and it has taken him over the year to finally look at home. The midfield battle is going to be intense in the match and the 26-year-old will be a key component of that as how he fares along with Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini will go a long way in deciding the outcome of the game.
This is set up for a cagey affair with the home side expected to be happy with a point in light of recent performances. However, if United take the lead, things could get interesting as Chelsea will be forced to come out of their shells. Staying on the fence seems the safest option.