After the ecstatic wins over their local rivals, United face another stern test in their quest for a Champions League spot – a tough away trip to champions-elect Chelsea.
Looking at this fixture a months ago, that it would a be a walk in park of the Blues, but new found confidence after wins against Tottenham, City and Liverpoo, have made Van Gaal proclaim that the title could still arrive at Old Trafford by the end of the season.
However the eight point differential with a game in hand, articulate a whole different story. It has been like that due to Chelsea’s dominance in the first part of the season and their consistency throughout the rest of the campaign.
Mourinho has kept the motivation levels high within his squad after winning the Capital One Cup final and the exit from the Champions League with four wins in the last six games. However their last few games have seen a wobbly performances, but they have still resulted in victories. Late escapes at Hull and QPR, despite being dominated, show why Chelsea are “the logical” champions, according to Van Gaal.
Nevertheless, these unconvincing displays, show that there are deficiencies within this Chelsea team. The defensive trio of Matic, Cahill and Terry is not as dominant as it was at the beginning of the season, and injuries to Remy and Costa, leave them shorthanded in the final third.
Van Gaal and his men have proven to be tactically spot on for every game recently, targeting City’s lazy runners, Tottenham’s lack of experience in midfield and Liverpool’s inability to deal with high pressing. Convincing performances have resulted in commanding victories to show that the Devils are up for the business end of the season.
Diego Costa is injured and expected to be back in a couple of weeks with Loic Remy doubtful due to calf injury.
Injuries to Blind, Rojo, Jones and Carrick after the City game leave United shorthanded. Evans is serving his last game of the ban. However, Luke Shaw is available. Van Persie did train but the Chelsea game comes too soon for the Dutchman.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) – Courtois; Ivanovic, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Fabregas,Hazard, Willian; Drogba
Man. United (4-5-1) – DDG, Valencia, Smalling, McNair, Shaw; Feillani, Herrera, Di Maria, Mata, Young; Rooney
While Chelsea’s formation looks pretty straightforward, I fully expect Van Gaal to have a few tricks up his sleeve. Do not be surprised if the same group of players line up in a 3-5-2. Without a holding midfielder at his disposal, the Iron Tulip might tinker with his line-up – he said Rooney might feature in the midfield.
Last Meeting: Manchester United- Chelsea 1:1
The last time the two sides met was the 26th October. A last gasp equaliser by Robin Van Persie saved the point for United, after Drogba put the Blues in front. Although good at times in the games, United did not look like a settled side due to constant tinkering.
This Saturday, changes will be necessary and with Chelsea comfortably sitting top of the table, I do not see how both sides would be disappointed with a draw.