First meets second in the Premier League on Super Sunday as Chelsea host Manchester United in arguably the biggest game of the season so far and one that could have long term consequences on the title race.
Chelsea currently have a four-point lead in the table and so will remain at the top no matter what happens in London on Sunday. But Sir Alex Ferguson will want his side to deliver some psychological damage on Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek defence of the Champions League.
United, who came from two goals down to pick up a 3-2 win over Braga in Europe thanks to the heroics of Javier Hernandez, also visit Stamford Bridge with some reason to be confident. Last season’s Premier League runners-up have won four and drawn one of the last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions. But the Red Devils have also won just one of the last 12 trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions, while Chelsea have won 10 and lost just one of their last 13 Premier League home games.
The Blues will be without the services of their experience duo – John Terry and Frank Lampard. The Chelsea skipper continues to serve his four-match ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, who is the brother of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand. While, Lampard sustained a calf injury against Shakhtar Donetsk in the midweek and has been ruled for ‘ a few weeks’. Marko Marin has been training for the past couple of weeks and is expected to be in the squad for Sunday. There are no other absentees meaning Di Matteo is expected to name the same XI that won 4-2 at Tottenham last weekend.
Manchester United will be without their Japanese playermaker Shinji Kagawa for three to four weeks due to the knee injury he picked up in his side’s comeback win over Braga. Chris Smalling and Ashley Young are back training for a week and therefore could make the bench at Stamford Bridge, while United hope Phil Jones will start full training in November. Sir Alex Ferguson has no other fitness concerns, except for the long-term absentee Nemanja Vidic (knee), in his squad and will have to decide what to do with his striker problems after Javier Hernandez’s man-of-the-match performance in the midweek.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played – 163
Chelsea Wins – 44
Draw – 48
Manchester United Wins – 71
HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)
05-Feb-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United
18-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
08-May-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
12-Apr-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
06-Apr-12 – Champions League – Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United
Chelsea – LWWWW
The Blues are in superb form this season and are early the favourites to win the title, as they are four points clear at the top of the table winning seven of their eight Premier League matches this season.
23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – FC Norsdjaelland 0-4 Chelsea
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea
Manchester United – WWWWL
United come into this match on the back of four back-to-back wins in all competitions and are sitting second behind their hosts for Sunday in the Premier League table.
23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 3-2 Braga
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-2 Stoke City
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The little Spaniard has been in great form this season and is surely one of the early contenders for the Player of the Year award. It was thought that the big money captures of Oscar and Eden Hazard might stop him from playing in his number 10 role for the club, but it has not. Instead he has got even better and has already scored three and created five goals in eight league matches so far. The United defence will have to be at their very best and disallow him the space he loves to get into, if they are to get a result on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The England international is at his very best since his return from the thigh injury he picked up against Fulham at the start of the season. Many people suggested that the arrival of Robin van Persie will see Rooney being frozen out at United, but it has not been so. The duo have flourished as a strike partnership and the Englishman, who has scored three times in his last two visits to Stamford Bridge, has scored twice and assisted four times in the last three league games. There is no doubt the versatile striker will be United’s main man on Sunday and if the Blues can keep him quiet for the whole game then they have a great chance of getting all three points from the game.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole; Ramires, John Obi Mikel; Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata; Fernando Torres.
John Terry misses the match because of his four-match suspension meaning Gary Cahill, who was benched for the midweek Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk comes back in the side to partner David Luiz in the heart of the defence. Frank Lampard, who picked up a knock in midweek, is expected to make way for Eden Hazard. Ramires will partner Mikel in the midfield, while Hazard will regain his spot in the side alongside Oscar and Juan Mata. Underperforming Fernando Torres is likely to start as the lone striker up front ahead of Daniel Sturridge.
Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Michael Carrick; Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez.
With Anders Lindegaard still recovering from the thump injury he picked up in training, David De Gea will start in between the sticks for the Red Devils. Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are expected to return to the side after being rested in the midweek. Michael Carrick, who looked very unconventional in defence against Braga, will be moved up the field to play in his natural position on Sunday alongside Antonio Valencia and Paul Scholes in midfield and Wayne Rooney at the top of the diamond. Javier Hernandez, who scored the late equaliser in 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge last season, could be picked ahead of Danny Welbeck to partner Robin van Persie in attack.
- 0 – Chelsea have a superb home record against United, as they have never lost to the Red Devils in their last 10 meetings at Stamford Bridge.
- 1 – Chelsea have gone into the break behind only once in the eight league matches this season.
- 2 – David Luiz has scored in both of his appearances for Chelsea against United at Stamford Bridge.
- 4 – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have only been in front at half-time four times in 12 matches this season, and have gone on to win all four.
- 4 – Javier Hernandez has scored in four of the seven clashes with Chelsea.
- 5 – Wayne Rooney has scored five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions against Chelsea.
- 5 – Robin van Persie has scored five times at Stamford Bridge; the best record of any visiting player.
- 6 – Fernando Torres has scored six goals in 14 appearances for Chelsea this season, and is just one shy of total from last season.
- 18 – In their last 30 meeting in all competitions, both the sides have got on the scoresheet on 18 occasions.
Name – Mark Clattenburg
Based – Durham
Age – 37
Games – 6
Yellow Cards – 24
Red Cards – 2
Chelsea 7/5, Draw 9/4, Manchester United 21/10
Chelsea are four points clear at the top of the table and a win on Sunday will see them going seven points ahead of United. The Red Devils, on the other hand, will put their best foot forward to pull Chelsea back. Goals are written all over this game, in the corresponding fixture last season Chelsea squandered a three-goal lead and were pegged back to 3-3. But both the sides have changed considerably since their last league meeting. Robin van Persie, who is the league’s top goal scorer with six goals, is expected to lead United’s onslaught alongside Wayne Rooney. However, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are in top form and given the weaknesses in both the defences, we are in store for a treat.
Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United