This weekend Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge and it’s an opportunity to widen the gap between them and the chasing pack. The in-form Red Devils will surely be a challenge, especially after they blew City away 4-2 at Old Trafford last week. They’re fighting for second place, and they’d love nothing more than to achieve that by closing the gap on the leaders.
Ahead of this weekend, Chelsea are currently seven points ahead of Arsenal and eight clear of United, with a game in hand on both. This weekend, the Gunners are at Wembley for the FA Cup semi final, so this is essentially the Blues’ game in hand on their rivals. Win here, and they’ll have a 10 point lead over Arsenal, with just six games remaining for both sides.
Of course, they’d also be 11 points ahead of United, having played a game less, so a win here could have them on the verge of confirming the title. Even though it’s hard to see anyone catching them at this point, Jose Mourinho will want things wrapped up as quickly as possible. They can take a big step towards that this weekend, but first they have to figure out a way past the Red Devils.
United have been in excellent form of late, beating Liverpool away and City at home to pretty much secure a top four spot and to get themselves in contention to finish second. They’ve been playing some excellent stuff, and Louis van Gaal seems to have created a way for his expensively assembled forwards and midfield to work together. Given the form that Chelsea have been in lately, it’s only their home record that has them as favourites here.
In recent league meetings, the Blues are unbeaten in their last four against United. In Premier League history, only three teams have ever gone five or more matches against them without losing. Could Mourinho lead his men into that elusive club? Or will the resurgence of Juan Mata, Marouane Fellaini and United hand the league leaders their first home defeat of the season? At this stage, it’s a close one to call.
Diego Costa is missing from this clash, just as he was in the first meeting between the two at Old Trafford earlier this season. He’s out until next month, and second choice striker Loic Remy joined him on the injury table. Remy missed last week’s win over QPR with a calf problem, so Didier Drogba started, with Izzy Brown on the bench. It’s not yet known if Remy will start on Saturday, but having him back would be a huge boost ahead of this game.
With so much on the line, Mourinho may be tempted to go for the jugular in this one, but his team’s recent performances probably don’t lend itself to that. His first aim will be to stop the visitors’ attacks in their tracks, before hitting them on the counter. It may not be enough, but it is hard to see Mourinho losing a game of this size.
LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw