Chelsea take their unbeaten record to Old Trafford in an intriguing game which sees Manchester United come up against a side from last season’s top four for the first time under Louis van Gaal.
With a short trip to Manchester City and a game against Arsenal also on the horizon, this match begins a sequence which could define what the Red Devils achieve this season, and also reveal how – or indeed if – they can compete against the best that the Premier League has to offer.
A record of 12 points from a possible 24 against sides they would all normally expect to beat on paper has made for a disappointing start, with the away form proving their biggest concern. Monday’s draw at West Bromwich Albion extended their wait for a victory on the road, in a game where they needed a late leveller despite dominating possession.
With Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie in the side, they can undoubtedly hurt Chelsea and provide a constant threat, but there are question marks over whether their defence can contain the league leaders. Surely the hosts cannot rely on David De Gea to bail them out this time.
While Man Utd have a lot to prove here, this is also a massive test for Chelsea, who will go an incredible 13 points above their opponents should they manage to claim victory. They could be forced to go with 36-year-old Didier Drogba in attack, but the Ivorian would relish his chance against a fragile backline.
This game could be won or lost by the contribution of Nemanja Matic, who is a colossus in the Blues midfield and has arguably become their most important player. The creativity of Cesc Fabregas may be crucial to the outcome as well as the pace and trickery of Eden Hazard, who appears to be on top form at just the right time.
Manager Jose Mourinho often comes good in the big games and he will hope to outdo his former Barcelona colleague van Gaal. He has seen his side score some superb goals in recent games, with Slovenian champions Maribor having suffered the full force of their brilliance in the Champions League on Tuesday.
Man Utd could be without Radamel Falcao due to injury. Captain Wayne Rooney completes a three-match ban, but Michael Carrick could return to the side after a lengthy lay-off.
Chelsea are still waiting on the fitness of Diego Costa, while Loic Remy is definitely out. Meanwhile, Cesar Azpilicueta serves a suspension, so Filipe Luis will start at left-back.
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