Chelsea v Manchester United Preview: Juan Mata returns to the Bridge

Chelsea today face Manchester United side at Stamford Bridge in a heavyweight clash that could significantly alter the complexion of th...

Chelsea today face Manchester United side at Stamford Bridge in a heavyweight clash that could significantly alter the complexion of the Premier League title race.

A win for the Blues would lift them 11 points clear of the visitors with a game in hand, whereas a home loss could open the door for second-placed Arsenal, who are seven points adrift before kickoff.

Chelsea has struggled to dominate a side since the opening half of the 3-2 win over Hull in late March. Keeping a side in the form of United from scoring, let alone claiming all three points, will take a significantly more convincing collective showing than the mediocre performances the side has produced in recent weeks.

Louis van Gaal’s men are in their best from of the entire campaign having taken maximum points from their previous six outings. One man who has been central to surge in confidence, Juan Mata, is returning to Stamford Bridge for the first time since Jose Mourinho sanctioned his transfer in January 2014.

Last Five Meetings

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea, League, October 2014
Chelsea 3-1 Manchester United, League, January 2014
Manchester United 0-0 Chelsea, League, August 2013
Manchester United 0-1 Chelsea, League, May 2013
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United, FA Cup, April 2013

Chelsea Form

(W) Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Chelsea
(W) Chelsea 2-1 Stoke
(W) Hull City 2-3 Chelsea
(D) Chelsea 1-1 Southampton
(D) Chelsea 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain

Manchester United Form

(W) Manchester United 4-2 Manchester City
(W) Manchester United 3-1 Aston Villa
(W) Liverpool 1-2 Manchester United
(W) Manchester United 3-0 Tottenham
(L) Manchester United 1-2 Arsenal

Chelsea Team News

The Blues boast a clean bill of health with the exception of Diego Costa, who remains unavailable due to the hamstring injury he picked up against Stoke.

Pending a prematch assessment, Loïc Remy is expected to start in place of the injured Spaniard having missed the 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road last Saturday.

John Obi Mikel could also return to the first team after undergoing knee surgery in early March.

Manchester United Team News

Louis van Gaal has been hit with a four-man injury blow and will be without Phil Jones, Michael Carrick, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo for the trip to London.

Jonny Evans is also serving the last of a six-game ban, leaving the Dutchman alarmingly light on defensive options.

There is a slim chance Robin van Persie could be available for selection after suffering an ankle injury against Swansea City in late February, but Van Gaal is reluctant to rush him back.

Probable Lineups

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Matic, Willian, Fabregas, Hazard, Remy

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, McNair, Shaw, Mata, Fellaini, Herrera, Di Maria, Young, Rooney

Score Prediction

Chelsea has seemingly lost the attacking swagger that saw us sweep teams aside early in the campaign. Even at home, beating United on their current run will take one of our best performances of the season.

The situation becomes even bleaker considering either Loic Remy or Didier Drogba will be tasked with leading the line in place of Diego Costa. The latter, who got the nod against Queens Park Rangers last weekend after Remy pulled out with a calf injury, barely had a sniff at goal last time out despite the best efforts of Hazard, Willian and Fabregas.

I think we will do well to get a point today, but you can never discount a Jose Mourinho team in these headline clashes. I’ll go for a 2-2 draw.

What are your score predictions?

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