The biggest game of the weekend sees the Blues host Manchester United in a contest that could give either side a huge boost. United may not be enjoying their greatest campaign but they are still a prized scalp, much as Jose Mourinho is sure to insist that three points is all that matters.
If the Pensioners can take all three points here, and do so in convincing fashion, it could lend real momentum to their title charge. Thus far they have largely enjoyed better results than their performances would generally warrant but recently they have been playing better football and there are signs that Mourinho’s reshaping of the style is beginning to pay off. Eden Hazard has been at the centre of much of Chelsea’s finest moments and, man of the match in three successive games, he could be the key player here.
The home side will be expected to win against opponents that seem to have problems all over the pitch. Even their major strength, up front, is limited due to injuries to Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie and if neither are passed fit here it is hard to see where the away goals will come from. Adnan Januzaj is a bright talent but he has much development to do before he can be classed as the finished product like his countryman Hazard. United will be buoyed by the return of Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick but David Moyes will no doubt be looking enviously at the midfield resources on which his counterpart can call.
Willian has been a growing influence in the Chelsea midfield and his all round game offers a nice balance alongside the more mercurial talents of Oscar and Hazard. With Mourinho’s men beginning to find their customary solidity at the back – five clean sheets in six will have pleased the Portuguese boss immensely – they are a tough nut for any side to crack, let alone one missing its key strikers.
Earlier in the season the sides played out a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford, the Blues seeming content to take a point. Here only three will do and the roles could well be reversed, with United sitting back and looking to play on the counter. The home side must be careful not to push too hard, too early and if they remain patient the chances are sure to come. Moyes’ side have collected a good number of points on the road but only one point from three games against sides above them in the league.
With Chelsea looking to improve an already impressive home record (of nine wins and a draw from 10 games) and hoping to add to their five consecutive wins in all competitions, we feel confidence and general superiority should see them home. It will be close and tight with United almost certain to come looking for a point but the Pensioners have enough class to break down any side and a narrow home win is our prediction here.
LCN Verdict: Chelsea to win 1-0