Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester United – prediction, team news, lineups
One of the most eagerly anticipated fixtures on the Premier League calendar will take place at Stamford Bridge on Monday night as Manchester United make the trip to Chelsea.
United are currently ninth in the Premier League table, six points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who will be looking to beat the Red Devils for the first time since May 2018.
It was always going to be a testing season for Chelsea as a transfer ban meant that they were unable to improve their squad ahead of the current campaign. Frank Lampard was also untried as a head coach at the top level, but the Blues are currently in control of fourth position in the table.
Indeed, despite suffering eight defeats in their 25 matches, a total of 41 points has left them two points clear of fifth-placed Sheffield United. Fifth could ultimately be enough for a Champions League spot due to Manchester City’s European ban, although the English champions are appealing the shock decision.
Chelsea have only actually won one of their last five in the league and entered their winter break off the back of successive draws at home to Arsenal and away to Leicester City.
They have lost four times at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League this season, meanwhile, with Liverpool, West Ham United, Bournemouth and Southampton all leaving the famous stadium with all three points.
Chelsea were free to complete transfer business in January having had their suspension reduced on appeal, but a new striker did not arrive at the club despite a host of speculation.
As a result, there is immense pressure on Tammy Abraham to score the goals in the second half of the campaign, and the Englishman, who is carrying an ankle injury, has only actually managed to register twice in England’s top flight since December 7.
The Blues are entering a key run of matches considering that their next three are all at home to United, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich. Indeed, they will take on the Red Devils and Spurs in the Premier League before the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against the German champions.
Lampard’s side will, for now, be solely focused on this match, though, and they will be looking to end a run of five games without a win against United, who are unbeaten in this fixture since the 2018 FA Cup final.
Indeed, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side recorded a 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend of the 2019-20 Premier League season before also beating the Blues 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the EFL Cup in October.
Both Premier League matches between the two sides last season finished level, meanwhile, meaning that the Red Devils have actually not lost to the capital side in the Premier League since November 2017.
United, like Chelsea, have only won one of their last five in the league, though, losing three times in the process. Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley have all beaten them 2-0 in 2020, while they entered the winter break off the back of a goalless draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on February 1.
A record of nine wins, eight draws and eight defeats from 25 matches has left them in ninth position in the table, six points behind Chelsea ahead of kickoff. While a defeat at Stamford Bridge would not end their top-four hopes, it would be a damaging defeat for the 20-time English champions.
Still without the services of Paul Pogba, United are light in midfield, while Marcus Rashford‘s back injury has taken away another of their most talented players. Solskjaer’s squad is stretched at the moment, but Bruno Fernandes impressed in his debut against Wolves last time out.
There could also be a first appearance for Odion Ighalo on Monday night as the Nigeria international, who has arrived on loan from Shanghai Shenhua, is expected to be part of the travelling squad.
United are in need of some inspiration in the final third of the field, particularly considering that Anthony Martial, who is almost certain to lead their line at Stamford Bridge, has only managed one goal in his last five Premier League appearances during a tough run of form.
The Red Devils will follow Monday’s match with the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Club Brugge on Thursday night, and it might well be that the club have to win Europe’s second competition this season if they are to secure a return to the Champions League for the 2020-21 campaign.
Chelsea Premier League form: WDWLDD
Chelsea form (all competitions): WWLDWD
Manchester United Premier League form: WLWLLD
Manchester form (all competitions): WLLWWD
Lampard’s big dilemma comes between the sticks having dropped number one Kepa Arrizabalaga against Leicester. Willy Caballero featured against the Foxes, but Kepa, who has been heavily criticised in recent months, is being tipped to earn a recall on Monday.
Reece James and Cesar Azpilicueta have emerged as Lampard’s two first-choice full-backs, meaning that Marcos Alonso is again expected to be on the bench alongside the likes of Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi.
As for United, it seems likely that Solskjaer could use the same 3-4-1-2 formation that worked so well away to Manchester City in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final at the end of last month.
As mentioned, Pogba and Rashford are still out for the 20-time English champions, though, while the contest will also come too soon for Scott McTominay, who is working his way back from a knee issue.
Ighalo should make the bench, meanwhile, as he eyes a first appearance for the Red Devils.
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Kepa; James, Rudiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta; Kante, Jorginho; Willian, Mount, Hudson-Odoi; Abraham
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Matic, Williams; Fernandes; Martial, James
Head To Head
United lead the overall head-to-head 80 wins to Chelsea’s 54, while there have also been 51 draws between the two teams throughout history.
As mentioned, the Red Devils are unbeaten in their last five against the Blues and have won both of their meetings during the 2019-20 campaign.
Chelsea’s last home victory over United in the Premier League was back in November 2017, although the 20-time English champions have not actually triumphed at Stamford Bridge in England’s top flight since October 2012, when Javier Hernandez scored a late winner