Sunday’s match between Chelsea and Manchester United was always one with a high sense of anticipation and importance surrounding it, but the feeling is now heightened due to the significance of Jose Mourinho returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time as manager of a domestic rival.
Manchester United’s manager enjoyed two-trophy laden spells with The Blues spanning five-and-a-half seasons, resulting in three Premier League trophies, three League Cups and one FA Cup. Chelsea fans will give the Portuguese manager a warm reception upon his arrival, but there will be little time for reminiscing once the referee blows the whistle.
Both sides come into the weekend’s blockbuster clash with some reasonable form, United labouring to a handy point away at Anfield on Monday before getting back to winning ways with a 4-1 victory over Fenerbache in the Europa League. No such European competition for Antonio Conte’s men means they haven’t played since the early kick-off for last week’s Saturday fixture list, when they brushed off defending champions Leicester City 3-0.
Team News – Chelsea
Chelsea are buoyed by the news of John Terry’s return; the skipper having made the squad last week for the first time since he suffered an injury in their 2-2 draw with Swansea in September. The defensive ranks will also be bolstered by Kurt Zouma’s return to first team training next week, the Frenchman having to endure a lengthy spell on the sidelines with an ACL injury.
Spaniard Cesc Fabregas will miss the match with a thigh problem, while Branislav Ivanovic’s minor niggle will keep him out also. Questions still remain about the participation of Brazilian duo Willian and Oscar, both having gone away from the squad following the passing of family members.
Goalkeepers – Thibaut Courtois, Asmir Begovic, Eduardo
Defenders – Gary Cahill, John Terry, David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses, Olaoluwa Aina, Nathaniel Chalobah
Midfielders – N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Pedro, John Obi Mikel, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Willian
Strikers – Michy Batshuayi, Diego Costa
Team News – Manchester United
Jose Mourinho named a fairly strong side in the mid-week Europa League game, the likes of David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial all starting. The game provided a moment of class from record-signing Paul Pogba, scoring the kind of goal United fans were expecting when they found out the Frenchman would be returning to the club.
Some minor injury concerns came out of the game with Fenerbache, with Chris Smalling having to be taken off at half time. He awaits a late assessment to reveal the extent of his injury. Meanwhile, Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been absent from the last eight match day squads, having not actually played since a lacklustre Manchester derby display, and Mourinho has ensured the former Borussia Dortmund man is “ready very soon to play” following a thigh injury.
Goalkeepers – David De Gea, Sergio Romero
Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Darmian, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Daily Blind, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo
Midfielders – Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Strikers – Memphis Depay, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney
Mourinho proved once again on Monday as to why he is the master of the big-match occasions, stifling a free-scoring Liverpool side to minimal sights on goal, David De Gea not tested as often as he might have thought coming into the game. Combine Chelsea’s back three, or back five depending on how you look at it, with a deep United block keen on keeping Chelsea out and you have the perfect recipe for a low-scoring draw. Perhaps a 1-1 score line to be more precise.
Recent history between the sides makes for painful reading for United fans, as they have not recorded a win over Chelsea since October 2012. There have been five Chelsea wins and five draws between the sides since, but the added element of Jose Mourinho provides a sense of optimism for United fans that might not have been present during the dour spells of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. Recent history is on your side if you choose to back The Blues, though, and if you fancy a punt then you’ll find the best English Premier League betting odds from William Hill.