CHELSEA v Manchester United: Preview

Venue: Stamford Bridge
Date: Saturday, 18 April
Kick-off: 17:30 BST

This week’s non Saturday, non 3pm game sees us play host to United at Stamford Bridge in the day’s late kick-off and it’s a resurgent United we have visiting. With United’s current form giving a return of 6 wins from 6 games, there’s been plenty written this week about them halting our title charge – or at the very least, delaying it. Undoubtedly, our more recent poor performances have a lot to do with that but whilst we certainly laboured to the three points against QPR last weekend, it’s of note we did actually take all three points away from QPR’s cup final.
That’s not to say any of us are assuming the title is in the bag, in spite of a bit of bravado, a game in hand and a seven point gap because whilst United have come into this game with their manager bemoaning a depleted defensive line, we don’t even know if we’ve got anyone to put out against them. With Diego Costa out, Remy injured last week and Didier Drogba unfortunately a long way past his hayday, there’s a possibility their injury issues won’t have that much of an impact anyway.
Still, as Jose Mourinho has said himself, it’s all about the squad. So, if we don’t win today, we have no excuses……..unless the ref is blind…….the pitch is too wet…….the sky is the wrong shade of blue…..

MANAGER’S VIEWS’
Going into today’s game, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho isn’t showing any sympathy for United’s reported injury list ahead of the game, saying “Every week, I have in my office not the team I’m going to play against, but on the big screen the squad and all the options. This week, when I arrived in the room, for the first time in the week, I realised what they have. It’s amazing. You want me to name their players? [Juan] Mata, [Angel] Di Maria, [Adnan] Januzaj, [Wayne] Rooney, [Robin] van Persie, [Ander] Herrera, [Michael] Carrick, [Daley] Blind, [Marouane] Fellaini. The kids played a lot of matches and are more than ready.
I went to Queens Park Rangers with [Didier] Drogba and no strikers on the bench and, for a long time, because of suspensions or injuries or your suspensions […] we were in trouble. You have to cope with it. I know Mr Van Gaal very well, and he’s the kind of person to think at this moment that, ‘We have a fantastic squad and will go with what we have’. Injuries are part of the game.”

On our title challenge and why we seem to have had so much stick, Mourinho says “Because we are boring, top of the league since day one. That’s something in this country people don’t like. Everyone would love the Premier League to be like the Championship at this moment, with four teams separated by a couple of points, where nobody knows who is going to be promoted or in the play-offs. I know this would be the ideal scenario in the Premier League, but since day one we are there. We are trying not to allow that to happen. We are with big determination to be champions.”
And in spite of some pretty inept performances in recent weeks, the Chelsea boss is showing no signs of concern about it, insisting “This week, I was not worried about motivating players or demanding players to be focused on the game and the opponent, because there is no need. It’s an easy job. It is a special fixture.”
Manchester United boss Louis van Gaal meanwhile, says of United’s title hopes “It is still possible. I have said that already before but it is not logical, but it is possible. It is more when and if, and I don’t believe in when and if. I believe in facts. The fact is we are behind Chelsea, but alright we have to play against them, so does Arsenal, so we can lay pressure on Chelsea’s shoulders, that’s true and then you never know. You have seen that also in previous Premier League seasons so it is always possible. I cannot say it is not possible but it is not logical.
I think Chelsea will be satisfied with a draw, but of course they want to beat us and we want to beat them.”

SQUAD NEWS
For Chelsea, Diego Costa (hamstring) is still out but fingers crossed, Loic Remy (calf) will make it back.
For United, Phil Jones (ankle), Marcos Rojo (adductor), Michael Carrick (calf) and Daley Blind (ankle) are all out injured. Jonny Evans is suspended and Andreas Pereira is away with the Brazil Under-20 side. Robin van Persie has recovered from an ankle injury and Luke Shaw is fit to play.

TEAMS
CHELSEA (Possible line-up): Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Hazard, Oscar, Willian; Remy
UNITED (Possible line-up): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Jones, Shaw; McNair; Herrera, Fellaini, Young, Mata; Rooney

LAST SEASON
Chelsea 3-1 Man United (19th Jan 2014)

RECENT FORM
CHELSEA: DWDWWW
UNITED: WWWWWW

OTHER STUFF
•Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 4 against United in the league
•United have won only six of their last 23 against Chelsea in the league
•United have won just five times at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League
•Only Arsenal have won more league points in 2015 than United
•Chelsea’s last home defeat in League came almost exactly a year ago

PREDICTION
Stamford Bridge might not be their happiest hunting ground but I don’t like the idea of playing United at this particular stage of the season. Firstly, we’ve been poor and they haven’t. Secondly, Diego Costa is injured. And finally, our last home defeat in the league was almost exactly a year ago on 19th April 2014.
My regulars will know I have a ‘no score prediction’ rule but just looking at the sendings off in our last five league meetings, I make it 3-2 to us, so they’re due one this time!

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