In an ideal world, this is one of the most significant fixtures of the season which will determine the way the Premier League crown is headed – the Northern powerhouse that is Manchester United or the trophy-delivering machine that Chelsea has been since 2003 – with four league titles since the inception of the competition. But this campaign, being the most unpredictable and at the same time exciting in recent years, this game will play second-fiddle to the blockbuster clash at the Etihad when the top two sides in the league lock horns.
Chelsea are unbeaten under Guus Hiddink but that tells you only one part of the story. The Blues are still way off in the league table with just 2 wins in the last 6 games and it’s time they started converting some of those draws into wins to climb the table at this crunch point of the season. They sit 13th with their most recent win in the Premier League at home coming in mid-December before Christmas which is ridiculous given the quality of players in their squad at the moment. The game is significant in a way though for as Chelsea’s longest-serving captain John Terry, a boyhood Manchester United fan, will lead his team for one last time against the Red Devils and he will want to make that a memorable one, if anything.
Manchester United are not out of the title race yet, at least according to Louis Van Gaal and things are looking a bit rosier for the Red Devils off the back of two impressive wins against Derby County and, particularly Stoke City. The Red Devils are still five points below fourth placed Arsenal and any talk of title will be rubbished if the visitors come away with nothing on Sunday – meaning this could be more important for United than they realize it is. Van Gaal talked at length in his presser about how the mentality has changed in the training but whether or not this could prove the difference between the two sides on Sunday is a different conversation altogether.
Chelsea new boy Alexandre Pato will not be making his debut in Sunday’s league clash against fifth-placed Manchester United, though Eden Hazard is set to start.
Manchester United are without Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia while Phil Jones is the closest to return to the match-day squad although that will not happen on Sunday.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six Premier League games against Manchester United (W3 D3).
- Manchester United have lost more often to Chelsea than any other opponent in the Premier League era (16 times).
- Man United have won just one of their last 13 Premier League trips to Stamford Bridge (W1 D4 L8).
- Chelsea have drawn their last three Barclays Premier League games at Stamford Bridge – they have never drawn four in a row on home soil in the history of the competition.
Key Men Comparison
John Obi-Mikel (Chelsea) v Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The robust defensive midfielder has been playing a pivotal role in shielding the back four since the beginning of Hiddink’s second spell at Chelsea and he will continue to have an impact on not just his own players and the organization at the back but also on the creative players in the opposition by constantly hounding them when not on the ball, closing down the gaps as quick as he can. He’s won 50% of his duels in the air and with Matic struggling to replicate his form of last season, the 29-year old will have to win the battle in midfield for Chelsea to attack their opposition further down the pitch.
2016 has been incredibly kind to Wayne Rooney with the birth of his third season and the goals that show no signs of drying up anytime soon. The Manchester United skipper is only 5 shy of leveling Sir Bobby Charlton’s all time record of 249 goals for the club having already eclipsed his record for the country, a few months back in 2015. He’s scored 7 goals in 7 games in all competitions and some of the goals along the way have been pure quality showing the confidence and freedom Rooney is playing his game with at this point in time which can only be beneficial for Manchester United chasing that fourth spot with just 14 games to go.
The last three games between the two sides have produced only three goals in total but with not much to play for (relatively), I feel this is going to be ‘less’ cagey and more end-to-end. Visitors to shade it.
Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United