Manchester United head into Sunday’s fixture at Stamford Bridge off the back of three consecutive victories in the Premier League and an opportunity to back on level points with City.
Penalties from Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov either side of half time on transfer deadline day lead Manchester United on their way to 3 points as Manchester City were being beat at Everton thanks to a strike from former Red Devil Darron Gibson. Chelsea had some fortune in scrapping a stoppage time equaliser at Swansea City.
Chelsea head into this fixture on the back of two draws in the league, without regular first teamers John Terry, Ashley Cole, Ramires. Frank Lampard remains a doubt.
In 39 previous Premier League meetings, Chelsea lead the head-to-head record with 13 victories to Manchester United’s 12 (with 14 draws). In fact, you have to go back to April 2002 when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side last won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
Paul Scholes, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer scored the goals that day, in a pre-Roman Abramovich era match against Chelsea. Both John Terry and Frank Lampard played 90 minutes for the Blues that day, managed by Claudio Ranieri.
Earlier this season, Manchester United tore Chelsea apart in the opening 45 minutes as they cruised into a 3-0 half time lead. Chelsea improved in the second half and would have been back in the game but a miss of the season candidate from Fernando Torres. The 3-1 victory was Andre Villas-Boas’ first defeat as Chelsea manager following his move from FC Porto.
Including last season’s Champions League quarter final meetings, Manchester United have won the last 4 meetings with Chelsea.
Sir Alex Ferguson has the tough choice of choosing between Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Danny Welbeck to play up front on Sunday. The latter 3 strikers have found the back of the net in 2012, whilst Rooney is without a goal since December 21 in the 5-0 thrashing of Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Manchester United are averaging 2.43 goals per game through 23 games, compared to Chelsea’s 1.78. United have conceded just 7 goals on their travels this season; a league low at this point. To give you an idea how well the 4 strikers are playing this season, no Liverpool player has scored more goals in the league so far this season.
Antonio Valencia has been a star player for Manchester United during the recent run of form. The Ecuadorian winger unselfishly setup Danny Welbeck’s winner at the Emirates a fortnight ago and then won the second penalty against Stoke midweek. The ex-Wigan star won’t be facing Chelsea’s first choice left full back on Sunday as Ashley Cole misses the tie through suspension.
Defensively for Manchester United, Phil Jones looks set to remain absent. Patrice Evra, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans are all available – these three played alongside Jones in the 3-1 victory at Old Trafford. Rafael and Rio Ferdinand are available for Sir Alex Ferguson to call upon should he wish to.
David de Gea is due back for this tie having missed the midweek game. The Spaniard was between the sticks when Chelsea visited Old Trafford in September, making 6 saves and being beaten only by Fernando Torres. The former Atletico Madrid stopper has yet to feature in the Premier League in 2012, but did feature in the FA Cup loss to Liverpool. Anders Lindegaard has been Sir Alex’s first choice in 5 of Manchester United’s last 7 league games, but an ankle injury for the Dane is expected to rule him out for the whole of February.
Stat of the day: Fernando Torres has picked up more yellow cards than scored goals for Chelsea
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