Stamford Bridge is the venue for one of the most hotly anticipated games of the season so far tomorrow as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea host Manchester United.
United got back to winning ways last weekend against Swansea after three defeats on the bounce for the first time since 2001. The Reds are currently nine points behind Chelsea in the table and lie in seventh position and critically, there is five points daylight between United and Liverpool who currently occupy fourth position.
A 2-0 victory at home to Swansea last weekend alleviated some of the pressure which was mounting on David Moyes but there is still intense scrutiny surrounding his tenure so far, with United disappointing in the league in terms of results and performances.
United were far from at their vintage best last time out and are still without Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie through Injury. The two were critical in United’s title charge last season and their absence is likely to be felt hard on Sunday. Marouane Fellaini, Ashley Young and Nani are amongst those injured, and Jonny Evans and Phil Jones are still likely to be absent.
Chelsea have steadily improved in recent weeks and are currently right in the title mix, sitting just two points behind leaders Arsenal. Since a shock defeat at the hands of Sunderland in the Capital One Cup in mid-December, the Blues have embarked on an unbeaten run of six games that has included five victories on the spin, outscoring their opponents by ten to one.
Eden Hazard has been instrumental on that fantastic run and is player who has been in man-of-the-match form of late. Mourinho’s squad has been bolstered by the signing of £20 million Nemanja Matic from Benfica and the deep-lying midfielder will only strength the mood in the London-based outfit’s morale ahead of the United clash.
Branislav Ivanovic is the only absentee with the Serbian right-back only starting training on Friday after a knee complaint, meaning the fixture could come too soon for him. Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic are both in contention, and Fernando Torres could lead the line after scoring last weekend against Hull City.
United ended their Stamford Bridge hoodoo in an early season encounter last season winning an extremely controversial contest 3-2 which saw two Chelsea players sent off by referee Mark Clattenburg. The return saw a solitary Juan Mata goal see off United at Old Trafford and the corresponding fixture this term was a turgid 0-0 draw.
Moyes has never beaten a team managed by Jose Mourinho in his career and his away record against the traditional big four makes for bleak reading (47 games, 0 wins and 29 defeats). United have also failed to score against Chelsea in each of their last three meeting in all competitions.
Mourinho has never tasted defeat at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea boss and with United’s two most potent attacking weapons absent, United’s chances look bleak as they travel to London.
Danny Welbeck has been in good goalscoring form of late with six goals in his last six Premier League appearances. However, Sunday’s opposition are a different prospect altogether and whether he can compensate in van Persie and Rooney’s absence remains to be seen.
All records must come to an end eventually but Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge record and Moyes’ away day torment against the ‘big 4’ seems set to last a little while longer.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-0 Manchester United