Manchester United vs. Chelsea
Sunday, April 16, 2017
Manchester United will continue their pursuit of the top four in the Premier League table when they welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
Chelsea, who sit seven points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur at the top of the table, were the last time to beat Man United in the league, with their 4-0 win at Stamford Bridge proving a humiliation for Jose Mourinho on his return to the club.
The Red Devils also lost 1-0 at Chelsea in the quarter-finals of this season’s FA Cup, and will therefore be seeking revenge when the two teams meet in the top flight of English football on Sunday afternoon.
Last weekend’s 3-0 win at Sunderland left Man United fifth in the Premier League, just four points behind fourth-place Manchester City with a game in hand. The top four is still open for Mourinho’s side at this stage of the campaign, but it is vital that they pick up a positive result this weekend.
Only Chelsea and Man City have a better away record in the Premier League than Man United this season, but the 20-time English champions have incredibly drawn nine of their 16 league matches at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils only actually have the 10th-best home record at this stage of the campaign, while they have only managed 21 league goals at Old Trafford this season, which is an indication of their troubles on home soil.
Worryingly, Man United are without a win in their last eight Premier League games against Chelsea – losing four times in the process. What’s more, the Red Devils have scored just three goals in their last 10 games against Chelsea in all competitions.
Man United have actually not beaten Chelsea in the Premier League at Old Trafford since September 2011, which is an incredible statistic. It has not exactly been plain sailing for Mourinho this season, but there is no question that the club are now moving in the right direction.
Eighteen points separate fifth-place Man United from league leaders Chelsea, however, with the Blues closing on another title. Defeat this weekend would leave Antonio Conte’s side vulnerable, although they have won their last three Premier League matches on their travels.
Man United will enter this match off the back of a 1-1 draw at Anderlecht in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final on Thursday night. The English side led in Brussels through Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but were pegged back late on to leave the tie delicately poised ahead of the return at Old Trafford next week.
In terms of what is ahead for Man United, they will, as mentioned, welcome Anderlecht for the second leg of their Europa League quarter-final next Thursday, before travelling to Burnley in the Premier League on April 23.
Mourinho’s side will then visit Man City on April 27, before ending the month with a home game against struggling Swansea City. It is a very busy and indeed defining period for the club as they chase a return to the Champions League.
Man United’s 21-game unbeaten run in the Premier League is an impressive feat, but 11 of those fixtures have been drawn. Another draw this weekend would have to go down as a decent result, but the team’s form at Old Trafford could well end up costing them a top-four finish this season.
Mourinho is used to the big occasion, however, and the Portuguese would love nothing more than to pick up all three points this weekend – aiding his team’s pursuit of a Champions League finish while putting a dent in his former club’s title ambitions.
Mourinho is expected to make changes following Thursday’s Europa League exertions in Brussels, with Luke Shaw one of those pushing for a recall after remaining on the bench against Anderlecht.
Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are also both expected to return to the starting XI, while David de Gea should replace Sergio Romero between the sticks after a couple of matches out of the team.
Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial will compete for a wide position in a 4-3-3 formation, with the former is expected to get the nod alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the final third.
Chris Smalling and Phil Jones remain on the sidelines, however, meaning that Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo will start in central defence once again.
As for Chelsea, Nemanja Matic is once again expected to get the nod over Cesc Fabregas in the middle of the park, while Pedro should keep Willian on the bench in the two major decisions for head coach Conte.
Diego Costa and Eden Hazard will continue in the final third for the Premier League leaders, while N’Golo Kante will be tasked with controlling Paul Pogba.
Man United: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Shaw; Fellaini, Herrera, Pogba; Mkhitaryan, Ibrahimovic, Lingard
Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Hazard, Costa, Pedro