As Manchester City race away in the title race with back to back wins, the battle for the remaining Champions League spots is heating up. A resurgent Chelsea will host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to kickstart a fortnight of football action that will determine the final standings at the top of the Premier League.
Here’s our preview of Sunday’s fixture between Chelsea and Manchester United:
Manchester United have not been at the top of their game in recent weeks, putting their title hopes in doubt. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have won just two of their last six matches which led them to drop 10 points behind leaders Manchester City. They are currently second in the table, with 49 points from 25 fixtures. The Red Devils enter the contest off the back of a 3-1 win over Newcastle at Old Trafford and a goalless draw with Real Sociedad in the Europa League.
United’s other problem is their recent form against the ‘big six’ teams in the Premier League. The Red Devils are winless in their six matches against the top teams this season, which has dented their title hopes. They have scored only one goal against all of them put together this season – a Fernandes penalty against Tottenham Spurs in a match they lost 6-1. Unless Solskjaer can drum up a different strategy, United’s woeful record is likely to extend.
Solskjaer is hopeful that Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay will return for the fixture against The Blues. Cavani and Van De Beek have missed the three consecutive matches with muscle complaints, while McTominay has injured himself in the first-leg win against Real Sociedad. Daniel James limped off in Thursday’s second leg and will be assessed before the game. Juan Mata will join Paul Pogba, Phil Jones and Hannibal Mejbri on the sidelines with injuries.
The Blues will host United with confidence after a brilliant 1-0 performance against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday night, which has put them on the top in the Champions League round of 16 contest.
Since Thomas Tuchel’s ascension as manager of the capital club, Chelsea have won six and levelled two of their eight fixtures under his command. Tuchel has turned around the club’s fortunes, with The Blues sitting in fifth place just two points off West Ham, and in fact, just six points off the Red Devils. They have added 14 points in their last six games in the League to bring their total tally to 43 points in 25 games – a remarkable turnaround after Frank Lampard’s departure.
The real test for Tuchel is yet to start – after hosting United, Chelsea face Liverpool, Everton and Leeds United before heading back to Europe to face Atletico Madrid. A strong performance in the next couple of weeks will not only secure Chelsea a spot in the top four but also secure the former Paris Saint-Germain manager’s spot at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea will once again be without Thiago Silva for the clash with Manchester United, but Tuchel will have all other players available to choose from.
HEAD TO HEAD
The head to head stats are overwhelmingly in favour of The Red Devils. Man United have won three of the last five meetings between the two sides in all competitions. Chelsea haven’t beaten Manchester United in the Premier League since November 2017 – more than three years ago. Their last encounter in the Premier League earlier this season at Old Trafford ended in a goalless draw.
Chelsea have lost their last home game 2-0 to United last season – they haven’t lost consecutive home games against United since 1995, and would like to avoid that scenario. The Blues will look to their 3-1 victory in the semi-finals of the FA Cup last season for strategies against United.
WHAT TO EXPECT
This is a tough match to predict for many reasons. Chelsea have been on an upswing since Thomas Tuchel took charge of the side, but Manchester United are the better outfit. Chelsea will likely control the possession of the ball for much of the game, though Bruno Fernandes might find some free space to counter-attack. A close draw is the most likely result.
Manchester United Predicted XI: David de Gea, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Fred, Scott McTominay, Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Daniel James, Anthony Martial.
Chelsea Predicted XI: Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger; Callum Hudson-Odoi, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Alonso, Mason Mount, Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham
When: Sunday, 28 February 2021, 10:00 PM IST
Where: Stamford Bridge
Where to Watch: All Premier League fixtures are streamed live on Disney+ Hotstar. Select matches will be streamed on Star Sports and Star Sports Select channels.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES