When Manchester United travel to West London to play Chelsea, it is usually exciting. The two sides have played some fascinating games leading to significant results in the last two decades and Monday’s encounter could just be another of those fixtures.
Chelsea are the league leaders, and have reached the stage where they could be called champions-elect with a double digit lead at the summit with under a third of the campaign to go. I’m sure Chelsea supporters are still heading over to NetBet Online Football Betting and backing their team to finish on top. They have also won the FA Cup with an enviable regularity since the turn of the 21st century – and Antonio Conte will be looking to make his first season in English football a memorable one by adding a prestigious FA Cup to what is likely to be their sixth league title.
Their last fixture against Manchester United was the first of his ‘statement’ wins, a resounding 4-0, almost embarrassing their returning manager Jose Mourinho. With the possibility of a replay at Old Trafford ruled out, the home side will feel extra confident to press their home advantage and progress to their first cup semi final under the eccentric Italian.
United are the holders of the cup and have not lost a league game since that dismal defeat at Stamford Bridge, an unbeaten run stretching up to 17 games, as yet. The Red Devils won the FA Cup last year, their first major trophy in three years, under Louis van Gaal which ultimately, was not enough to prevent his future at the club.
United had very little else riding on and a record 12th FA Cup was something to be savoured – but this is not the case under Jose Mourinho. Although the FA Cup is still a huge draw, the Red Devils have other priorities – as a top four finish in the Premier League is still very much possible and the importance of a second leg clash against Rostov three days later cannot be overstated as the Europa League is increasingly looking to be their best chance of making the Champions League next season. Mourinho has confirmed that he will field a strong side at Stamford Bridge on his much anticipated return but there is little doubt that he will have one eye on the midweek fixture, influencing his selection.
Chelsea have a clean bill of health ahead of Man United’s visit and it will be intriguing to see whether the Italian rotates his squad to give some of his fringe players a chance – as he has done in the previous rounds.
Man United on the other hand, will miss top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will be missing his first of three games due to suspension. Midfielder Mkhitaryan is a doubt to be involved from the start and so is former German International Bastian Schweinsteiger, who is still recovering from a minor injury.
- Chelsea are unbeaten against Manchester United in their last 11 games in all competitions.
- Man United have won 5 of their last 6 games in the FA Cup.
Key Men Comparison
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) v Paul Pogba (Manchester United)
Eden Hazard has been arguably the best player in a team that is performing out of their skin week in week out. The Belgian has scored 11 goals and created a further 4 – taking his tally to 15 in 26 starts in the Premier League.
But owing to squad rotation, he has only appeared once in the FA Cup and it is hard to see Conte persisting with a weaker squad against an in-form Manchester United. Hazard, having never won this competition in his five years at Chelsea, has scored some big goals against the visitors in the past, and will be expected to do it again when the two sides meet on Monday night under the floodlit Stamford Bridge.
Paul Pogba has had a very ‘ambiguous’ season so far, for want of a better word. The 23-year old Frenchman has had some brilliant games for United but also fared noticeably poorer in a few others – particularly in the big games against fellow top six sides which makes the writer feel some of the criticism levelled at him can be absolutely justified.
Pogba has all the tools to shine in these momentous occasions and with 8 goals and 4 assists in 38 starts in all competitions, there is palpable expectation around him to make his mark on the pitch – as there will not be a better time for him to open his FA Cup and ‘big game’ account than Monday.
Chelsea to go through in extra time.
Chelsea 2-1 Man United (A.E.T)