This is a huge game for both sides as neither can really afford to lose. Chelsea are still one of the favourites for the title, but they need to turn some of their draws against the big teams into wins if they are going to seriously push on to win the league. Whereas Manchester United can’t afford many more defeats in the second half of the season, otherwise they will be in severe danger of missing out on Champions League football next season which will be damaging for a brand like Manchester United. David Moyes will probably want his side to keep it tight for the first half before pushing on for the win in the second half, however Chelsea have stepped up the gears recently so it’s going to be very difficult for the Red Devils.
Chelsea have been in great form in recent weeks taking 26 points from 9 matches since the start of December, winning their last four league matches in the process. It appears that Jose Mourinho has finally found the winning formula after a shaky start to the season at Stamford Bridge. This week’s addition of Nemanja Matic, who only left the club in 2011, will strengthen the Blues who needed a more dominating ball winning midfielder in central midfield. The player signed from Benfica has improved massively since leaving Stamford Bridge. Many have raised their eyebrows at Chelsea spending £21m on a player they didn’t seem to value three years ago, but Mourinho identified Matic as a key target, and the Portuguese manager wasn’t at the club when the midfielder left the club.
Everyone knows that Manchester United have had a worse season than even the most pessimistic fan would have predicted, but they still have the platform to push on for a top four finish. They have the more experience when it comes to the pressurised run in than Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton. They are only five points away from Liverpool in 4th place, but a loss on Sunday could widen that gap. They can’t afford to let it grow too much which is why it’s imperative they avoid defeat at Stamford Bridge. Unusually they go into this match with nothing to lose, nobody is expecting them to get anything from the game which is odd for a Manchester United side, but it shows how far they’ve fallen in just half a season. Moyes needs to buy at least one player this month, if only to inject some belief into the squad.
The first meeting of these two sides this season was very early on and nobody had any idea that the Champions would perform so poorly. Jose Mourinho may look at the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford as two points dropped after seeing West Brom, Everton, Newcastle and Tottenham all go there and win. The Chelsea manager showed Manchester United a lot of respect as he started Andre Schurrle as a false nine showing his defensive intent. He will be a lot more attacking this weekend. Last season’s fixture was a heated affair seeing Chelsea going down to nine men after Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres saw red. The away side won 3-2 with David Luiz (og), Robin van Persie and Javier Hernandez scoring for the Red Devils, while Juan Mata and Ramires scored for the Blues.
Chelsea have kept four clean sheets in their last five matches. This will please Mourinho as his sides are built on a strong defence and they were leaking goals at the start of the season, it appears that Chelsea are only going to get stronger in the run in.
Manchester United are yet to win any points in ‘Fergie Time’ since David Moyes took over. This again shows that the fear that surrounded Manchester United is diminishing as sides feel more comfortable when they are in front.
Eden Hazard has been the stand out player for Chelsea this season. Mourinho is spoiled for choice when it comes to attacking midfielders, while Oscar, Willian, Juan Mata and Andre Schurrle are all competing for places behind the striker, Hazard has become one of the first names on the team sheet. The former Lille star came to this country with a big reputation, but he has come on a lot in the past 18 months and he could become one of the best players in the world if he continues to improve at his current rate.
The Belgian has created 50 chances which is the most in the division, one more than David Silva. He has five assists to his name so far. Hazard is also very capable of scoring important goals having netted nine times already which is a really good return for a player like the Belgian.
Manchester United have had a few defensive problems this season so Mourinho will be hoping that Hazard cause them all sorts problems while creating chances in the process.
Manchester United have really struggled this season, but the 18-year-old Adnan Januzaj has been a huge positive. He has burst onto the scene out of nowhere. People expected Wilfried Zaha to become a regular in the Manchester United side this season, but he has rarely featured as Moyes has put his faith in Januzaj. The youngster has caused a lot of problems for opposition sides with his direct running and long shooting. His decision making needs to improve in attacking situations, hopefully he will with more experience in the first team. The 18-year-old has created 16 chances so far, two of which were assists. He has also scored three goals for Manchester United this campaign. He is still developing so he won’t contribute lots of goals and assists but his youthful exuberance will cause problems for any defence in the league. The Champions will need to be clinical when they get chances as Chelsea have only conceded once in their last five matches, Januzaj will be crucial in opening up the strong Chelsea defence.
Frank Lampard is a doubt with a hip injury, but it’s looking like the Englishman will be available. In worse news, Branislav Ivanovic won’t be back until the end of this month as he is suffering with a knee injury. This will be that Cesar Azpilicueta and Ashley Cole continue at full backs. Marco van Ginkel remains a long term injury concern. Nemanja Matic could make his debut at the weekend.
Wayne Rooney, Patrice Evra and Robin van Persie are all likely to miss the match which is worrying for Manchester United. Alexander Buttner could debutise for Evra. Johnny Evans, Phil Jones and Rio Ferdinand could all be available this weekend which is a huge boost for David Moyes as he was lacking bodies at the back. Marouane Fellaini has returned to training but is unlikely to return for this match, while Nani and Ashley Young remain on the treatment table.
I think Chelsea will win on Sunday, they have pushed on recently and are starting to look like real title challengers. Manchester United have failed to impress this season, especially in the big matches. Chelsea are still yet to lose a home league match under Mourinho, and I expect that to continue. Mourinho has a lot more experience than Moyes and that’s likely to be reflected in the result.
Winner Sports share this view as they have Chelsea as favourites at odds of 3/4. They have a Manchester United win at odds of 4/1 which is extremely high given they are still the reigning Champions, but that reflects their current form. Eden Hazard has odds of 9/4 to score at anytime, while Adnan Januzaj has odds of 7/2 to score at anytime on Sunday. You can sign up for a free bet with Winner here – Free £25 bet with Winner