4-0. That will be the score line on everyone’s mind Monday night when Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge to take on Chelsea in the final FA Cup quarterfinal.
Back in October, United made the same trip to London with manager Jose Mourinho making his first appearance at Stamford Bridge since his sacking in December of 2015. The welcome might have been cordial in mood, but on the pitch, the Blues handed Mourinho one of his worst defeats as a manager, thumping United 4-0.
You can be sure that result will be on the mind of the Portuguese manager as he once more returns to Stamford Bridge, but this time with a trip to Wembley for an FA Cup semifinal on the line.
It was never going to be any easy task to defeat a Chelsea side who have looked so dominant over the past few months, but their task will not be made easier after injuries and suspensions have robbed the Red Devils of a recognised striker.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s red card for elbowing Tyrone Mings in last Saturday’s match against Bournemouth. Ibrahimovic alone gives United a massive headache, with his 26 goals in all competitions making up nearly half of United’s goals this season.
If Ibrahimovic’s absence isn’t bad enough, injuries have struck with Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial ruled out due injuries suffered in training, and Marcus Rashford is ruled out because of illness.
It likely means that Marouane Fellaini will lead the line against the stingy Chelsea defence, though Mourinho could spring a surprise and play a false nine, opting to possibly play a trio of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Juan Mata, and Jesse Lingard.
Antonio Conte doesn’t have any issues as far as team selection. Aside from David Luiz’s long-term nagging knee injury from Sergio Aguero’s scandalous challenge early in the season, Chelsea are injury-free.
In previous rounds against Brentford and Wolverhampton Wanderers, Antonio Conte made the decision to rotate the squad. Against United, he’s likely to field a first-choice side, especially with a chance at winning the league and cup double on the horizon.
But Chelsea must not get complacent. United might have injuries and no striker, but they still have an excellent squad that’s been on a good run of form and a manger who tends to thrive when his team faces long odds.
Because of the injuries and the 2,280-mile round trip to Rostov in the Europa League on Thursday, Mourinho may elect to resort to his trusty method of staying compact and pragmatic, especially with the threat of the Chelsea counter attack ever-present.
Monday’s match is the marquee match of this round of the FA Cup, however, there is a possibility that it isn’t the exciting spectacle that might be anticipated, especially with the prospect of extra time and penalties looming in this round.
Regardless, it’s still a match between two of the top teams, and after the FA Cup results of this weekend, both semifinal matches will be contested between four teams that are likely to finish in the top 6.