The biggest match this weekend is taking place at Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho’s side host his old team, Chelsea. Manchester Untied need to record a victory in this match to keep their top four hopes alive, while the Blues will need no extra motivation to put one over on their former manager. Antonio Conte’s men have an advantage in that they have already beaten United twice this season, while they have also had a week’s rest, unlike the home side who had to travel to Belgium for a Europa League tie. It has been a frustrating season for the Red Devils, but this is a great opportunity for them to send a statement to the rest of the league that they are heading in the right direction and ready to challenge for the title next season.
Antonio Conte’s men have an advantage in that they have already beaten United twice this season, while they have also had a week’s rest, unlike the home side who had to travel to Belgium for a Europa League tie. It has been a frustrating season for the Red Devils, but this is a great opportunity for them to send a statement to the rest of the league that they are heading in the right direction and ready to challenge for the title next season.
Manchester United have had a few years out of title contention and there had been hope that they would be challenging this season, but a poor home record has meant they have spent most of the campaign in 6th position. The pressure is on them to qualify for the Champions League and they have two chances of doing so. The Europa League looks to be a more likely route for them, but they are only four points behind Manchester City with a game in hand, while Liverpool are also catchable. There is only a small margin for error in the league and that makes this match a must-win for the home side.
Chelsea are seven points clear at the top of the table and it is difficult to see them choking at this stage. However, this will be seen as a match that they could slip up in if Manchester United play to their potential. Although they can afford to lose this weekend, it would increase the pressure on the team at a crucial time of the season. In the previous two meetings between the two clubs this season, the Blues have been the better team by quite some distance. They will be the side with more confidence this weekend.
In the two previous meetings this season, Chelsea won without conceding a goal on both occasions. The Premier League meeting finished in a convincing 4-0 win for the league leaders with Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and Ngolo Kante scoring the goals. Meanwhile, in the FA Cup, Kante scored again to win the match for his side. The Frenchman has only scored twice for Chelsea and both have come against Manchester United.
The 35-year-old will be full of confidence after being nominated for the PFA player of the year award by his peers. It has been an incredible debut season in England for the world-class striker and he will be hoping to finish it with a flourish. His own future is uncertain as there are a number of clubs interested in taking him from Manchester United, with the MLS a real possibility, but at the moment he will only be thinking about helping United to Champions League qualification. He currently stands on 17 goals in the league and he will be aiming for the 20-goal mark before the season is finished. There has been a lot of pressure on the striker as he is United’s only regular source of goals, but he thrives in such an environment. United face some difficult matches over the run-in and Ibrahimovic will see those as an opportunity to show his quality in big matches. The first comes this weekend and if he is on form in front of goal, United have a great chance of securing a positive result.
The Chelsea midfielder is another player on the shortlist to win the PFA player of the year award and is considered the favourite in the media. It has been another excellent season from the French international and he looks set to win his second successive Premier League title. He has created his own role in midfield and it isn’t surprising that his teams achieve a lot of success. There are still doubts about whether he can step up and dominate matches at the highest level after an under-par Euro 2016 for France. However, he will have another opportunity to prove his quality in the Champions League next season. This season, he has averaged 5.7 ball recoveries per match and continues to be one of the best in the league at winning the ball back. Although this is down from last season, he is now playing in a team that has more possession, therefore he has fewer opportunities to win the ball back. Manchester United have had problems in the centre of midfield this season and Kante will have the opportunity to dominate in these areas on Sunday. If he can do that, his team should take one step closer to the title.
Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney could both be fit to feature this weekend. However, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are set to miss out through injury.
Chelsea have no injury concerns heading into this weekend. They are likely to start with the eleven that has played for the majority of the season, which means that Cesc Fabregas may have to settle for a place on the bench.
This is an extremely difficult match to call as there is more riding on it for the home side. Although Chelsea have been incredible since their change to 3-4-3, Manchester United have the players to cause them real problems. Their home record is poor, but they have had almost no luck in front of goal and that is surely going to change at some point. Jose Mourinho will be eager to avoid a third defeat to his former club and he could look to employ more defensive tactics to ensure that he doesn’t. A draw looks to be the most likely result, but in truth that will benefit the visitors more than it will United.