Chelsea head in to their clash with Manchester United knowing that they will be starting the game without their two first choice strikers, with Diego Costa and Loic Remy both injured. They will be facing an out of sorts United side, but they have the benefit of resting all week while Chelsea were in European action on Tuesday.
The Blues know title rivals City have the chance to close the gap at the top to two points, given that they play a day earlier, so the pressure could really be on the Pensioners come kick off on Sunday.
That pressure is bound to be higher after they lost Remy to injury early in their 6-0 win over Maribor in the Champions League. Costa’s hamstring problems should keep him out of the game, and with Remy now likely to be out for two weeks Didier Drogba is the only recognised striker available for the game.
Drogba isn’t going to be able to play for the entire 90 minutes, and starting him could play right in to United’s hands given how their main problem at the back is defending against pace and players running in behind. But, if Drogba doesn’t play, then Chelsea are a little stuck for options. Mourinho could do what he did at Old Trafford last season, and start the game with Andre Schurrle up front in a false nine role.
Schurrle has been out for the last couple of games through illness, but he should be available for the weekend. If not, we could see Cesc Fabregas play in the false nine role. It’s a position that he’s taken up for Spain on many occasions, so he’s more than used to playing there. Mourinho has been raving about Fabregas’ performances in recent weeks, so it remains to be seen if he’d consider moving him to a role where he’d be more withdrawn from the game.
On top of that, he may be needed for midfield duty as well. Ramires has been out though injury in recent weeks, and he may not make the game at the weekend. Add to that John Obi Mikel’s ankle injury which makes him a doubt, and Fabregas and Matic will probably need to be the midfield pairing. The attacking midfield trio should remain unchanged, but they’ll be expected to chip in with goals given the forward situation.
At the back, Cesar Azpilicueta misses out through suspension, so Filipe Luis will be starting at left back. Kurt Zouma should make way for Gary Cahill, while Thibaut Courtois should return to goal in place of Petr Cech.
While this can hardly be called an injury crisis, it is a worry for Mourinho. A few players may well be patched up for the game on Sunday, and there’s likely going to be a few kids on the bench. Despite that, they’re facing a United side who are struggling for form and they’ll be without Wayne Rooney, so this is far from impossible for the Blues.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 2-1