Chelsea host the return of domestic football this weekend as Jose Mourinho returns to Stamford Bridge bringing his not quite United side with him.
Much has been made in the media of the struggles of the Red Devils this season as they sit in 8th place, seven points off joint top Chelsea and arch-rivals Manchester City and Liverpool, all on 20 points.
The international break may have helped settle the United squad but Chelsea’s side looked like they could do with a rest as well.
Mourinho’s side came back from a two goal deficit to beat Newcastle 3-2 whereas the Blues finally managed to record an away victory following a midweek European game for the first time in four years.
Both teams will be desperate to record victory to keep title hopes alive and the injury list favours the home side. Maurizio Sarri’s only first team doubt is Antonio Rudiger, whereas United have six players possibly unavailable.
Jesse Lingard, Ander Herrera and Marcos Rojo are all ruled out, and Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw are slight doubts.
Chelsea are domestically unbeaten in 10 matches at home against United but both sides have won two of the last four meetings and it’s shaping up to be a very interesting contest.
CHELSEA PREDICTED LINE-UP 4-3-3
Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Rudiger, Marcos Alonso,
Jorginho, Kante, Kovacic
Willian, Morata, Hazard
It is possible that Sarri will play Ross Barkley after he opened his Chelsea account during the 3-0 victory over Southampton.
It is also possible the former Napoli boss will play Olivier Giroud upfront but following the end of Alvaro Morata’s goal drought, I feel Sarri will play the Spaniard.
As for Manchester United, the line-up is far more difficult to predict.
MANCHESTER UNITED PREDICTED LINE-UP 4-2-3-1
Dalot, Smalling, Lindelof, Young
Fred, Mata, Rashford,
I think we’ve probably seen the last of Eric Bailly and Antonio Valencia until the end of the Mourinho era, following the stripping of the captaincy and the early substitutions in recent weeks, and this leaves the Portuguese with very little choice defensively.
If Luke Shaw is fit, then he will presumably play with Ashley Young on the right, but if not, it leave Diogo Dalot as Mourinho’s most likely choice.
The former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss also slated Anthony Martial in the last few moments of the victory over Newcastle for not tracking back, and possibly will choose Marcus Rashford instead.
This game will be United’s best chance to ease some pressure over the entire club, especially the manager, and as such I think this fixture is huge and will require the strongest possible starting XI.
I think we may see the real Manchester United this weekend, but Chelsea are in good form and neither side will be able to bare losing. 1-1 is my prediction.