I’m pretty sure the “library” as they like to call Stamford Bridge will not be quiet on Saturday. This could end up being THE game of the year and from a viewership standpoint, bigger than the El Clasico. Since 2004, Chelsea and Manchester United have combined for 8 of the last 10 Premier League titles AND runner up in 6 of the last 10, so these teams truly have been the best teams in England.
For Manchester United they come in having won their last 6 league games in which they have managed to score at least 2 goals in 4 of those games. Injuries to Daley Blind, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Michael Carrick have forced Louis Van Gaal to shift the lineup once again that will resemble the lineups used earlier this season. Robin van Persie should return, but will see the bench for the most part. But in the last few weeks we have seen a more settled United line-up, up front they have looked very fluid, and have been much better in the back as they haven’t had to rely on the steady David De Gea as much.
For Chelsea, they are undefeated in their last 16 home matches in the Premier League and are also undefeated in their last 7 matches against Man United in all competitions. Chelsea will probably be forced to play Didier Drogba up front once again with Diego Costa still out with the nagging hamstring problem and Loic Remy struggling with a calf injury.
How do I think the match will play out? Ander Herrera is going to have to come up big in the role usually played by Michael Carrick, which is one of the biggest reasons Chris Smalling has been playing well as of late. I think that triangle of McNair, Herrera, and Smalling is something to keep your eye on as they will have their work cut out for them containing Fabregas, Drogba, and Willian. Maybe you see Marouane Fellaini dropping to play a little deeper midfield role also. Chelsea will have their work cut out for them also as Fellaini likes to sit on opposing teams backs and switch from time to time because he knows a high ball will find him. But Branislav Ivanovic is one of the best backs in the league and let’s not forget he is also good in the air. So I think he can neutralize Fellaini on the right side. Now as for Azpilicueta or Felipe Luis we shall see. One things for sure…Fellaini will not or should I say I don’t see Fellaini dominating the Chelsea midfield like he did with Yaya Toure. Yes John Terry and Gary Cahill got exposed a little last week against QPR, but I think Matic will be up to the task as long as he can keep himself in the game and not get sent off.
I think the most interesting part of this game will be the midfield play. In particular Juan Mata vs Eden Hazard. Two outstanding midfielders that play the number 10 role about as good as anybody right now in the league. And you know Mata will be looking to prove something as he makes his first return to Stamford Bridge since he signed with United. One BIG weakness for Chelsea is their defending of through balls, which just happens to be a strength of United. United comes into this game with a lot of confidence and rightfully so, but I think Chelsea will continue that unbeaten run as they take another step towards the title. It won’t be easy though.