As Roman Abramovich, the man who transformed Chelsea into a footballing super-power, turns 48, Chelsea looks to become the new dominants of the Premier League at the expense of their opponents on Sunday, Manchester United. This will be the first time these two teams meet this season at Old Trafford.
TEAM NEWS, INJURY UPDATES AND SUSPENSIONS
Chelsea are facing a striker crisis as Diego Costa, who is reported to have a serious stomach bug apart from his ongoing hamstring and groin problems, has “a very little chance” of making the team on Sunday according to The Telegraph. Frenchman Loic Remy was taken off after only 15 minutes on Tuesday, immediately after he had opened the scoring for Chelsea against Maribor. His groin injury seemed less serious apparently, and he was hopeful of recovering ahead of the big match, but Mourinho has said that Remy will be out for two weeks.
However, in case both Remy and Costa are unable to start on Sunday, Jose Mourinho may have to ponder on whether to start the 36 year old veteran Didier Drogba against Manchester United, who scored his first goal for Chelsea after the historic night in Munich in 2012, or with a false 9 up front. Last season, Mourinho started Andre Schurrle up front and might give it a thought again as the winger has earlier played in this role more regularly for his previous team.
Schurrle is not yet fully fit after his slight injury while on international duty but is expected be in contention for Sunday. Cesar Azpilicueta is suspended for Sunday’s match after his red card against Crystal Palace last week, which means Filipe Luis will make his first Premier League start for Chelsea at left back.
Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria were forced off against West Bromwich Albion last week but are expected to be fully fit for the match against Chelsea. Di Maria was seen limping out of the pitch last week but now seems untroubled by the injury. Wayne Rooney will be serving the last of his three-match ban and hence is suspended.
Marouane Fellaini may start in midfield to partner Blind ahead of Ander Herrera. Michael Carrick may return to the squad after having been an unused substitute against West Bromwich Albion.
Michael Carrick has been out with an ankle problem since July. Luke Shaw has endured a poor run of form this season so far which means Marcos Rojo may replace him at left back with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling now fit at central defence. Midfielders Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard are still sidelined with hamstring and knee injuries respectively. Young defender McNair is out with a hamstring problem.
Chelsea have been steam-rolling opponents in the Premier League, winning 7 out of their 8 matches, scoring 23 goals in the process. Their only draw came at the Etihad against the defending champions Manchester City. They put up an impeccable display, scoring 6 goals at home against Maribor in the Champions League on Tuesday after an efficient display at Crystal Palace last Saturday. The defenders have now tightened things at the back after initially allowing quite a few goals in at the start of the season. A total of 8 goals have been conceded till now, which is second only to Southampton.
With 3 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses, Manchester United have not been able to gather the momentum they expected to after the appointment of Louis Van Gaal. They could only manage a draw in their last match at the Hawthorns with Daley Blind scoring an equaliser in the 87th minute. Van Gaal will be looking to use this big match against Chelsea at Old Trafford to inspire his players. However having conceded 12 goals, Manchester United continue to have major defensive problems.
Chelsea and Manchester United have played each other at Old Trafford 77 times out of which Chelsea have won 20 times, Manchester United have won 32 times while the remaining 25 matches have been draws. Manchester United have scored 118 times in this fixture compared to Chelsea’s 76 goals. The last time these sides met at Old Trafford, a scoreless draw was played out.
PREDICTED STARTING LINE UP
Chelsea(4-2-3-1): Courtois(GK); Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry(C), Luis; Matic, Fabregas; Oscar, Hazard, Willian; Costa.
Manchester United: De Gea(GK); Rafael, Jones, Rojo, Shaw; Blind, Fellaini, Di Maria, Mata; Van Persie(C), Falcao.
HEAD-TO-HEAD LAST SEASON
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea 27/8/2013
Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United 19/1/2014
LAST 5 PREMIER LEAGUE MEETINGS
Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United 19/01/2014
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea 27/08/2013
Manchester United 0-1 Chelsea 05/05/2013
Chelsea 2-3 Manchester United 28/10/2012
Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United 05/02/2012
PREDICTED SCORE: Manchester United 1-2 Chelsea
TIME: 1600 GMT / 2030 IST
VENUE: Old Trafford
REFEREE: Phil Dowd
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni