Chelsea have struggled to hit the heights of last season, but three consecutive victories seemed to have put this campaign back on track. That good run came to an abrupt end on Tuesday night, after a Champions League hammering at the hands of Roma.
The Blues cannot afford to put in a similar performance against a strong Manchester United side, as defeat would see them fall seven points behind Jose Mourinho’s men.
United were much criticised after their ultra-defensive performance in a bore draw against Liverpool last month, and they also lost to Huddersfield Town seven days later. However, a deserved 1-0 victory over a strong Tottenham side last week silenced some doubters, and they followed that with a solid 2-0 Champions League win over Benfica on Tuesday.
In Chelsea’s last home league game, against Watford two weeks ago, Pedro was the star of the show. He scored early on with a fine whipped effort before providing an excellent assist for Michy Batshuayi. However, he turned in an underwhelming performance in midweek, and, with him not being a regular starter under Antonio Conte, he could be dropped for this clash.
Phil Jones is likely to be a key presence in the United backline on Sunday. The Red Devils have only conceded two Premier League goals with him on the pitch this season. He seems to finally be getting the recognition he deserves and that will only increase if he helps to shut Chelsea out.
Conte decided not to gamble on N’Golo Kante’s fitness on Tuesday, and perhaps regretted that decision come the final whistle. He is likely to start for the first time in a month on Sunday. The Chelsea manager has confirmed that Victor Moses is still unavailable for selection, the wing-back suffering from a long-term hamstring injury.
United still have a lengthy injury list, but Mourinho has suggested that some of his key players are almost back to full fitness. Although Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini are unlikely to feature on Sunday, they are at least back in training. However, there are fresh concerns about Jesse Lingard, who was substituted against Benfica due to a back injury.
The match at Stamford Bridge is likely to be a tight affair, especially if Mourinho decides to go as defensive as he did at Anfield three weeks ago. Don’t be surprised if there are few goals in this titanic clash.