Chelsea will be aiming to move closer to the top half of the Premier League by extending their unbeaten run against Manchester United in all competitions to 12 matches, with the visitors attempting to stay in touch with the top four.
There has been a marked upturn in the Blues’ performance levels ever sense Guus Hiddink reassumed the reins, but a number of draws have slowed the team’s progress up the table; the latest of them coming away to Watford on Wednesday. After a first half where they were below-par and hardly looked like creating a meaningful chance, the belated signs of life came in the closing stages where fine goalkeeping from Heurelho Gomes kept them at bay.
One would imagine that there will be more sharpness to their play here, where striker Diego Costa faces an intriguing physical battle with Chris Smalling, which is set to be tightly contested throughout, while at the other end Branislav Ivanovic may have his work cut out up against the tricky Anthony Martial. Meanwhile, one player who has returned to the fold under Hiddink is John Obi Mikel, who very much seems to fit into the Dutchman’s approach and plays a vital role in the midfield.
Rarely does a first half goal from Manchester United at Old Trafford garner such attention as their opener against Stoke City in their last game, but Jesse Lingard’s diving header was the first time they had found the net at home before the break in a Premier League match since way back in September, so there was ample reason to celebrate. That effort was soon added to on what turned out to be a convincing victory for the Red Devils and a badly needed one at that.
Some of the football they played was sumptuous and not akin to a lot of what they have produced this season, with the move that led to the second goal and the finish from Martial only capable of being described as breathtaking.
The difference was in that match is that United were allowed to play with freedom and it paid dividends, so it will be interesting to see what they can serve up in West London in this meeting of two underachieving sides that has been given an extra edge by the news that they have apparently held preliminary talks with former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho.
Alexandre Pato is not yet ready to make his debut for Chelsea, who are still without Radamel Falcao and Loic Remy while Pedro Rodriguez is a doubt with a groin problem.
Man Utd are still without a quintet of injured players – namely Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phil Jones, Antonio Valencia and Marcos Rojo.
Played for both – Mark Bosnich: The controversial Australian goalkeeper had two spells at Man Utd, the second of which saw him become their first-choice goalkeeper as they stormed to the Premier League title in the 1999-00 season. He lost his place from then on and later joined Chelsea, but after just five appearances he was sacked by the club in 2003 for failing a drugs test.