Chelsea v Manchester United
EPL Match Preview
Two old foes go head to head on Sunday afternoon at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea entertain Manchester United in one of the big games of the weekend.
HIDDINK’S CHELSEA SAFE, WITHOUT BEING SPECTACULAR
First things first, Chelsea will not be relegated from the Premier League this season. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like they will make a late charge for the Champions League places either, as their domestic league season shudders to a halt somewhere in mid-table. Too many drawn games since Gus Hiddink took over from Jose Mourinho just before Christmas, has ensured the defending champions will not be troubling the top places in this particular campaign. Tuesday’s 0-0 against Watford typified Chelsea under the tutelage of their interim coach, dogged, determined, but ultimately lacking in quality, as they laboured to their fourth draw in their last six league games. Now Hiddink welcomes an old adversary to West London, hoping to continue the Blues’ great record against Manchester United.
RED DEVILS THROW OFF THE SHACKLES
In a city famous for its annual rainfall, it’s been raining goals in the past week for a rejuvenated Manchester United. Three goals in the FA Cup against Derby County, followed by another three at Old Trafford against Stoke City on Tuesday, has brought the smile (albeit a wry one) back to the face of coach Louis van Gaal. Indeed, Tuesday night was the first time the Red Devils had scored two goals in the opening 45 minutes at Old Trafford all season and although van Gaal’s announcement that the club are still in title contention (currently quoted at *34.00 on the best football betting sites) seems a little tongue in cheek, a top-four finish is certainly attainable reflected by their current odds of *2.50.
HIDDINK V VAN GAAL
The pair’s rivalry spans three countries and 18 years and there’s no doubt who has the upper hand, with the current Chelsea boss having only lost once (in February 1999 when van Gaal’s Barcelona beat Hiddinks Real Madrid 3-0 at the Camp Nou) to his fellow countryman in their seven previous encounters.
Hiddink stated this week that new signing Alexandre Pato is still way off being match fit. The Brazilian striker will be joined on the sidelines by fellow strikers Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao, who are both injured. Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, currently priced at *6.50 on the betting exchanges to be an anytime scorer, should play in a more advanced role on Sunday, with John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic doing the dirty work in the two holding positions.
Manchester United may line-up exactly as they did against Stoke City, although Frenchman Morgan Schneiderlin could replace Maraoune Fellaini in the midfield holding role.
THE TWO SQUADS
Chelsea (from) Courtois, Zouma, Terry, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Willian, Oscar, Matic, Fabregas, Mikel, Costa, Hazard, Traore, Rahman, Loftus-Cheek, Cahill, Begovic, Kenedy
Manchester United (from) De Gea, Darmian, Borthwick-Jackson, Smalling, Blind, Lingard, Rooney, Martial, Carrick, Fellaini, Mata, Depay, Schneiderlin, Varela, McNair, Romero, Herrera, Pereira
HEAD TO HEAD
Manchester United does not like playing at Stamford Bridge, having only won one of their last 13 league games there. They aren’t too keen on playing Chelsea full-stop, with the side from the capital having the best Premier League record against the Red Devils than any other club. The champions are unbeaten in their last six league games against Sunday’s visitors.
Chelsea 2.15 Draw 3.30 Manchester United 3.90
*odds courtesy of Bet365
By: Steve Mitchell