Chelsea vs Manchester United Preview

Chelsea vs Manchester United Preview
Image result for chelsea vs man utd
Image from Sky Sports
Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge for their third game in nine days as they face Chelsea in the FA Cup on Monday night at 19:30 GMT. This is such a big game for both sides as they aim to progress to the Quarter Finals and win some silverware in difficult seasons for both teams. 

Team News:
Image result for anthony martial
Image from Manchester Evening News
Manchester United confirmed earlier this week that both Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard would be unable to play against Chelsea, Liverpool and are potential doubts against PSG in the reverse fixture. Reports that the duo have returned to Carrington to train shows promise that the recovery date may be earlier than expected but are almost certain not to feature on Monday night. This could potentially allow  starts for Alexis Sanchez, who was rightly slated for his performance against PSG on Tuesday and/or Romelu Lukaku who has failed to nail down a starting position under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian are also unlikely to make the trip to London and so either Ashley Young or Diogo Dalot will operate as the right back for the game. Chelsea have a full-strength team unless Ruben Loftus-Cheek's persistent back injury forces him to remain on the sidelines but Sarri could make changes to the side that won in Sweden and may give Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu rare starts and chances to prove themselves further. 

What form are both teams in?
Chelsea have had an interesting run of form recently after progressing to the Carabao Cup final following a penalty shootout win against Tottenham and winning away to Malmo earlier this week but are subject to poor domestic form losing three out of four league games with defeats to Arsenal (2-0), Bournemouth (4-0) and most recently, Manchester City (6-0). This has forced the Blues to sink from fourth to sixth after their goal difference was seriously diminished following that massacre in Manchester. Manchester United may have suffered a setback in the Champions League following a 2-0 home loss to Paris Saint-Germain but remain unbeaten in the league under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer due to the club's rejuvination after eight wins and a draw in the league as well as two FA Cup victories against Reading and Arsenal. United will aim to punish a Chelsea side that have been sluggish and stagnant in recent weeks and aim to recover from their midweek mishap and progress to the Quarter Finals.

What would a win mean for both sides?
Image result for malmo vs chelsea
Image from Fox Sports
Simply, a win would send either Chelsea or United into the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup and up against either Brighton, Watford, Man City, Millwall, Wolves, Swansea or Crystal Palace. A loss would mean United would be almost guaranteed to finish the season without silverware with their Champions League hopes hanging by a very fine thread. As for Chelsea, they have already booked themselves into the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City and after being battered at the Etihad, are certainly not favourites. However, the Blues remain the favourites to win the Europa League, ahead of Arsenal, Napoli and Inter Milan to name a few and could be their best bet of returning to Champions League football for the 2019/20 season after slipping to sixth in the league on goal difference. 

What has happened in recent matches between the two?
Last time out against Chelsea, United came back from 1-0 down at the Bridge to lead 2-1 thanks to a Martial brace but could not hold on as a scrappy last minute equaliser from Ross Barkley maintained Chelsea's unbeaten start to the season at that point and sparked clashes between Mourinho and the Chelsea staff. Chelsea have constantly been a bogey side for United, especially at Stamford Bridge with the Blues unbeaten against United at home in nine games in all competitons with the Red Devils last beating Chelsea at the Bridge in October 2012 thanks to a 75th minute winner from Javier Hernandez in a 2-3 win. Manchester United have a worse run against Chelsea in the FA Cup being losing the last five matches, most recently with a Hazard penalty being the difference between the sides in the final of last season with United's last win against the Blues in this competiton being in the treble winning season of 1998/99 with a brace from Dwight Yorke sealing the away win for Manchester United. 

Who's likely to start for United and what's my prediction?
David de Gea ought to start against Chelsea with the Spaniard in good form of late and denied PSG three good chances to score and could be pivotal in the game. Dalot may get his chance to impress and allow Ashley Young to rest, especially after struggling against Di Maria on Tuesday. Lindelof and Bailly ought to continue in defence to deal with the pace of Hazard and the strength and movement of Higuain. The midfield three should remain the same as they have been excellent since Solskjaer came in and could dominate Jorginho and Kovacic in midfield. Up front there are two options; play a diamond with Lukaku and Rashford upfront and Mata in behind or play a front three of Rashford, Lukaku and Sanchez or Mata, either way I believe the Belgian and English internationals are guarateed to start. It seems more likely that Mata may play behind the strikers in a diamond, perhaps as a false nine as Lingard did against Arsenal and Tottenham with Lukaku and Rashford stretching the defenders in wider areas. 

Image result for rashford and lukaku
Rashford and Lukaku look set to start at Stamford Bridge on Monday
Image from Manchester Evening News
As for the result, it will be a tough, tight game with Chelsea aiming to dominate the play and United likely to allow this and press the Blues high and counter with pace and power. I think the battle between Pogba and Kante will be pivotal and be the difference between the sides. Nevertheless, I don't rate Chelsea's tactics at the moment with Sarri stubborn to change his ways, I expect United to at least draw against Chelsea but would hope they get the win there and then to prevent extra time and/or penalties. 

Predicted Team: De Gea, Dalot, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw, Matic, Herrera, Pogba (c), Mata, Rashford, Lukaku

PREDICTED SCORE: 1-2 to United

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