It is the Jose Mourinho derby in West London on Sunday as his current employers make the trip down to South to his once comfortable stomping ground.
No matter what happens on Sunday, Mourinho will once again hog the limelight on Sunday as his in-form Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge to potentially spell an end to Chelsea’s aspirations to defend their league title. Chelsea have had a mixed start to the campaign – uncharacteristically inconsistent under Antonio Conte whose relationship with the Chelsea hierarchy seems to have strained for various reasons.
The Blues got out of jail when they came back to beat Watford 4-2, backing it up with an important result at Bournemouth. But they have once again suffered a poor defeat in midweek in Rome, raising questions as to whether there is more to their performances than a mere lack of focus we often see in teams that have just won the Premier League. Conte’s Chelsea dished out a hiding when the two sides met last time making a statement in the title race but it is unlikely we would see a repeat of that on Sunday.
For Manchester United, this is once again an absolute must win – to not lose any more ground to their neighbours who have racked up 14 wins in succession in all competitions. United are on a great run themselves – losing only once since the start of the Premier League, including a string of solid displays in the Champions League, all backed by a defence that is genuinely the best in the country.
The Red Devils will go into this game on the back of impressively efficient wins against Spurs and Benfica at home – but with Jose Mourinho yet to win an away game against a fellow top six side in the league since November 2014, it will be interesting to see if he could break the drought by getting one over his former sides, that gave him his heaviest defeat as a Premier League manager.
Alongside Kante, his former Leicester team-mate Danny Drinkwater could also make his Premier League debut. Victor Moses (hamstring) is the only definite absentee, with captain Gary Cahill set to start in defence.
Jose Mourinho does not expect to have any of his injured players back for Sunday’s clash. United were without five players for Tuesday’s Champions League win over Benfica while Jesse Lingard picked up a back problem and was taken off halfway through the game. Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellani, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo have all spent significant time on the sidelines.
- Manchester United’s 2-0 victory in their last meeting with Chelsea ended a run of 12 games without a win against them in all competitions. They last won back-to-back meetings with the Blues in September 2011.
- Antonio Conte’s side have already lost as many home Premier League games this season as they did in 2016-17 overall (2).
- Twenty-one per cent of the total Premier League goals scored in the final 10 minutes of games this season (10/47) have been netted by Manchester United.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea
It has been a weird season for Hazard in that he is not particularly playing badly but the Belgian has not lit up the league in a way a player of his calibre is expected to. He scored a big goal last week in the Vitality Stadium to secure three vital points for the Champions and in fact that is his first goal of the season.
He has fared better in the Champions League involving in 3 goals (1 assist, 2 goals) in 3 starts but the 26-year old will need to return to his devastating best if Chelsea were to pull a rabbit out of hat on Sunday and get their season back on track which is heading the wrong way.
Nemanja Matic – Manchester United
It is still a mystery how Chelsea let go one of their assets in Nemanja Matic to a direct rival thereby strengthening them massively in an area they needed bolstering. The Serb has eased into life at United, under old manager Mourinho who has trusted him enough to buy him for the second time for big money and it is paying off.
Matic has brought a resilience and organisation to the side that has made life easier for the centre-halves and the goalkeeper. Manchester United have conceded the fewest league goals in this calendar year and are yet to concede one at Old Trafford this season. Having added the goals too with Lukaku and the return of Ibrahimovic in December, things are looking rosy for the Reds. On current form, they should definitely come away with a win on Sunday and the former Chelsea midfielder could potentially end up being the difference.
United rarely turned up at Stamford Bridge even when they were an ordinary side, there is mental block they need to overcome down there.
Expect a red card in the second half (David Luiz, anyone?).
Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United