After their Boxing Day clash with Watford, Chelsea are quickly back in action as they face a trip to Old Trafford on Monday evening. This is the first big game for Guus Hiddink since returning to the club, just how will be match up against his countryman Louis van Gaal? Can he deliver a blow to United’s hopes of making the top four?
This isn’t exactly the kind of game the Blues would have wanted as they try and kick start a revival, but with United struggling, it may be the perfect time to play them. The Red Devils haven’t won since November, and now they’ve slipped out of the top four having gone on a poor run of results. The last visitors to Old Trafford, Norwich, came out 2-1 winners here. Surely the Blues have at least a chance?
This will certainly be a major test for Guus Hiddink, as he looks to lead the team back up the table. While catching United isn’t a realistic ambition, beating them certainly is. There’ll be little confidence in either side following their recent results, so it’ll take a lot of motivation if either manager is going to lead his side to victory in this one.
As far as team news goes, there should be little to worry about in terms of injuries for Hiddink, although he may have to rotate his side, with his team playing 48 hours earlier at home to Watford. We may see the appearance of a couple of squad players, but the boss will most likely try and name his strongest side for a potentially defining clash.
One thing the team do have going for them is the fact that this is away from home. Home games for the next few weeks will see continued protests about Mourinho’s sacking, and the majority of the players won’t be given too warm a welcome. That could end up having an effect on the team. Away from home the players might have one less thing on their minds, without fans booing them.
All being well, this game won’t be the reunion between Jose Mourinho and Chelsea that many have been dreading. Van Gaal heads in to Christmas as the favourite for the sack, with Mourinho favourite to replace him. He’d be the obvious choice if the Red Devils were to move right now, but it seems like they’ll hold off for the time being. Seeing the club’s greatest manager in the opposition dug out so soon would be enough to ruin any fan’s New Year.
Van Gaal’s United are incredibly functional, and their lack of cutting edge is good for a Chelsea team who aren’t great at the back. Expect a better defensive display from United than their last home game, which could make this clash a very tight affair.
LCN Verdict: 1-1 draw