As Chelsea inch closer to the Premier League title, the Blues face a tough match at the weekend against in form Manchester United. The Reds are fresh off of their derby victory against their noisy neighbors, Manchester City. United looked much the better team for the match, imposing their will on the game. Louis Van Gaal has done his job getting the best out of the talent he has at his disposal. Ashley Young, and Marouane Fellaini have looked like different, more effective players this season .
Jose Mourinho also just lead his team past a resilient QPR squad last weekend. Chelsea’s victory was much less comfortable however, with Cesc Fabregas scoring a late winner in the 88’ minute. The Blues have been struggling to find their best form of late, yet they continue to secure victories. Mourinho’s men are just 4 victories from winning the title, but they face perhaps their toughest test in a long time against United.
The match will see the Blues return home to face the Red Devils at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea have been clinical in the Premier League. Mourinho will be missing his main striker, as Diego Costa is still out with an injury. However, he is expected to get Loic Remy back, after his minor injury in training kept him out of the QPR game.
With just four wins between them and the title, against a surging United team, there aren’t many games bigger than this for Chelsea. Last season when the clubs met at the Bridge, Chelsea relied on a clutch performance from Samuel Eto’o to see them through. The Cameroon international scored a hat trick against the Red Devils, who never really looked in the game.
For the Blues to get all three points from the match, they will need another big performance from one of their stars. To me, this game has Eden Hazard written all over it. It’s the perfect match for the Belgian to take over. Especially since Van Gaal is set on playing midfielders at right back, i.e. Valencia or Young. This will work to the Blues’ advantage as Hazard should be able to “dance” around these “defenders”.
Another important man for Chelsea will be Loic Remy. He will lead the line for the Blues, barring any lingering issues. This will be a major upgrade, as Drogba seemed to stall the attack against QPR. The Frenchman’s surging runs behind defenders will be vital for creating space for the likes of Hazard, Fabregas and Willian. Remy can also hold the ball up and be used as a target man. He is also clinical in front of goal, often finding himself in the right place to score. I firmly expect the 28-year old to get on the scoresheet.
Thibaut Courtois will need another standout performance to keep United’s wealth of attacking players at bay. Should Di Maria be healthy enough to start, he can cause several problems for the Blues’ backline. Hopefully, Courtois will receive more help from his defense, and Chelsea can continue their impeccable goals against record at the Bridge.
The game also marks Juan Mata’s homecoming to Stamford Bridge. Although he has looked out of sorts at times for the Red Devils, he enters the game in tantalizing form, scoring against City and performing well in his last few outings. The Spaniard will have his first chance to prove to Mourinho that the Portuguese tactician made a mistake. Hopefully, he won’t get the chance with Matic in the defensive midfield.
Chelsea’s two defensive midfielders narrowly avoided suspensions for yellow card accumulation, but will now see their totals wiped clean. There are most likely to both start for the Blues, and will be vital for Chelsea’s success.
Overall, Mourinho’s men will not have many tasks greater than this weekend against the Red Devils. However, Chelsea should be expected to continue their winning ways at home at Stamford Bridge. Although they haven’t looked at their finest, they are finding ways to win, and I think they will again here. My prediction is Chelsea scoring three goals and Manchester United one. Hazard will strike twice, and Remy will nick one as well. I also believe Rooney will pull one back for the United.
Jose Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal are quite good friends. That being said, I fully expect the Portuguese manager to get the better of the Dutchman at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Either way, it is certain we are in for an exciting match in West London.
Contribution from Tyler Strauss