Saturday 18th April – 17:30 – Stamford Bridge
Louis van Gaal’s resurgent Manchester United face their toughest task to date when they travel to Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday. United are enjoying their most successful spell of the season and head to London on the back of five consecutive victories, the latest of which being a 4-2 derby victory over champions Manchester City. With a top-four finish seemingly in the bag, the Red Devils know a victory could reignite their faint chances of winning a 14th Premier League crown, although victory would give a bigger boost to second-placed Arsenal. Chelsea head into the game knowing they require just 11 points from their remaining seven games to secure a fourth Premier League crown, which would be Jose Mourinho’s third with the club. While maintaining their tilt for the title in recent weeks, the Blues have failed to show their early-season superiority, only overcoming Hull, Stoke and QPR by the odd goal in their last three games. Victory for them and you have to say the title race could well be over…
The Key Battle: Ashley Young vs Branislav Ivanovic
If any player has revitalised his career at United this season, it is Ashley Young. The winger has been a key part of Van Gaal’s squad, particularly in their recent run of form.
The former Aston Villa player had a starring role in last week’s demolition of Manchester City, contributing a goal and two assists.
United’s attacking down the left wing – with the help of Blind – has been instrumental in defeating Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and Branislav Ivanovic could have his work cut out.
Young will easily outpace the Serbian right back so it will be up to the experienced defender to get into the right positions to try and limit the danger posed by United’s attack.
But the 31 year old, will have to keep his head – he has been sent off twice in this fixture before. Further forward, Ivanovic can be a goal threat.
He is the highest scoring defender in the Premier League this season (four goals), whilst he also has four assists, meaning Young could well need to use his experience as a wing-back to help out in defence as well.
- The Blues are hopeful striker Loic Remy will be fit after he missed the QPR match with a calf injury.
- Diego Costa is still absent but could return against Arsenal next week.
- Jose Mourinho has no fresh injury worries, but he could recall Oscar in midfield to replace Ramires, whilst Jon Obi Mikel and Kurt Zouma are other options in the middle of the park.
- Louis van Gaal is without the injured Michael Carrick and Daley Blind, meaning United’s midfield could look very attacking on Saturday.
- Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have both picked up knocks so are also unavailible as well as Jonny Evans, who continues his suspension for spitting.
- This leaves Chris Smalling, Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett as the club’s only available central defenders.
Chelsea wins = 46 / Manchester United wins = 68 / Draws = 50
Last Meeting: Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (26th October 2014)
Robin van Persie’s equaliser deep into injury time gave Manchester United a point and kept Chelsea within range of their Premier League title rivals after a dramatic Old Trafford finale. Didier Drogba’s header, glanced in off Van Persie early in the second half, looked to have extended Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table to six points until a thunderous conclusion in front of the Stretford End. In scenes reminiscent of days gone by at the Theatre of Dreams, Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Angel Di Maria as United applied late pressure. Di Maria’s resulting free-kick saw Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois save brilliantly from Marouane Fellaini but Van Persie was on hand to thrash home the rebound and spark wild celebrations around Old Trafford.
Stat of the Match
Five players have been sent off in the last five league meetings: three for Chelsea (Branislav Ivanovic twice and Fernando Torres) and two for United (Nemanja Vidic and Rafael).
Where can I watch it?
The match will be shown live on Sky Sports 1 from 4:45pm on Saturday, with kick-off 15 minutes later. The highlights will then be shown on BBC One’s Match of the Day that evening at 10:30pm.
My Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United
Without Diego Costa in their side, Chelsea certainly look a lot less dangerous, and have stuttered to victories in recent weeks. They won’t find it as easy against Manchester United though, who are on form and ripped local rivals City apart last weekend. Jose Mourinho’s side still have Eden Hazard though, who will get on the scoresheet, but former Blue Juan Mata could come back to haunt Chelsea and hand them a first home defeat in almost a year. The Spaniard will score, along with Wayne Rooney to give United a huge win.