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Preview: United cannot let Chelsea’s supreme reign extend to thirteen matches

Manchester United -v- Chelsea

Old Trafford, Manchester

Premier League 2016/17

Sunday 16th April 2017; KO 16:00 BST

Live on Sky Sports 1HD

Manchester United play an important Premier League fixture against Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, especially after they had been beaten by the same club twice this season, with this match being United’s last chance at establishing their position in the league in the top four. United will go into the match in fifth place in the league, still a long way from the top four, but a draw or even a defeat could see United put back into sixth, their favoured position for much of the season, which will see them having to rely on winning the UEFA Europa League to get into the Champions League, albeit through the back four. Keeping a chase on Manchester City and Liverpool will still give United a chance to get something from their league position this season, it will also give Tottenham Hotspur a chance to challenge Chelsea for the Premier League title this season, and that will be a funny challenge seeing as Chelsea seem to have the title all but in the bag at this stage of the season. United and Jose Mourinho should be up for beating Chelsea, it being twelve consecutive matches since they last beat the London club should be the main reason to do the business.

This season has seen United in good form, unbeaten in the last 21 league matches this season, their last defeat in this reverse fixture at Stamford Bridge back in October – seeing that unbeaten run, which consists of eleven wins and ten draws will be a blow to Mourinho’s first season at United. A win against Chelsea would hopefully see his season end on a high. United have problems in their system, defensively they are doing well, for in terms of attacking, despite seeing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic scoring 28 goals in all competitions, Juan Mata, now out for the remainder of the season the only other player on double figures (10) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring his ninth goal of the season on Thursday night, the finishing across the board has not been the best. United struggled to finish Anderlecht off on Thursday evening, having chance after chance, but just not getting the accuracy needed to find te back of the net. Anderlecht just needed one shot on target to take the thunder away from United, who were going into the second leg with an away goal and 1-0 up on aggregate.

Chelsea will be a much harder threat for United. Back in March, playing at Stamford Bridge in the Emirates FA Cup, United seem to have had Chelsea where they wanted them, bringing the game to them, but after Ander Herrera was sent off, all that was out of the window and a solo goal from Eden Hazard was all Chelsea needed to knock the holders out of the cup. United need to play in that form of mind again, give Chelsea the game, get what they need, then do the defensive work to stop Chelsea from getting what they want. They have a seven-point lead at the top of the league this season, providing Spurs beat Bournemouth in the lunchtime kick off, there could be a four-point gap by the time a ball is kicked at Old Trafford. United have it all against them, though, with plenty to do in order to take points off the team to beat this season, but Mourinho will be looking to instill that confidence in his side, who need to find the right medium in the squad in order to kill off their opposition, ending the season on a high and setting a foundation for the next.

Match Officials: Will Bobby Madley dish out his 100th yellow card at Old Trafford in the Premier league this season?

Bobby Madley will officiate the clash at Old Trafford which will be his 25th match in the Premier League this season. Madley has handed out 99 yellow cards and one red card this season. This will be the fourth match Madley has officiated involving United this season, overseeing the 1-1 draw against Stoke City, the 1-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur, and the 2-0 victory over Watford. Madley has yet to officiate in a match involving United that they have been defeated; the two he was involved in last season resulted in victories for United over Watford in the league and Shrewsbury Town in the Emirates FA Cup. Seven United players have been booked by Madley this season; Antonio Valencia three times, Ander Herrera, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Gary Beswick and Peter Kirkup will be the assistant referees with Andre Marriner as the fourth official.

Form: Chelsea are the in-form team this season, but Manchester United have not been all bad…

Manchester United: This season has been the better of the last four post-Sir Alex Ferguson, but there still is some improvement to be made. Jose Mourinho has commanded his side well, bringing in four players who were needed, one of them scoring 28 goals this season, another commanding the defensive area, one solving a problem with pace in the attack and the other being a competent midfielder United were gutted to lose nearly five years ago. Mourinho has done well, but some so-called supporters and the media have the knives out ready for him to fail. despite many probably calling for him to be the manager during the Christmas period in 2015. Winning one trophy already and still able to win another and finish in the top four, despite it being tough, this season could have a happier ending than the previous ones.

Chelsea: This season Chelsea seems to have snapped out of their ‘not playing for the manager’ attitude which took place last season, seeing Mourinho being sacked and Chelsea just finishing in the top half of the Premier League table, despite being closer to relegation at one point. If find it astounding that a manager who put the team together was in effect ended by his team, but that is what money does, especially when players at the club seem to lack any tact or even dignity. Still, Chelsea seem to have risen to take on Leicester City, not head-to-head, but to take the title they won last season, something they just don’t have the ability to defend this season. Chelsea will probably win the league if they take all three points away from Old Trafford, with United probably finishing outside of the top four, if that happens.

Who are the Manchester United and Chelsea Top Scorers this season?

Manchester United: 28 – Zlatan Ibrahimović, 10 – Juan Mata, 9 – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford, 7 – Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, 5 – Jesse Lingard, Wayne Rooney, 3 – Marouane Fellaini, 2 – Michael Carrick, Chris Smalling, 1 – Daley Blind, Own Goal, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Antonio Valencia

Chelsea: 18 – Diego Costa, 14 – Eden Hazard, 11 – Pedro, 8 – Willian, 6 – Gary Cahill, Cesc Fàbregas, 5 – Marcos Alonso, Michy Batshuayi, 4 – Victor Moses, 2 – N’Golo Kanté, 1 – César Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Branislav Ivanovic

Team News: Jose Mourinho boosted in the injury ranks, but maybe not for this game, or any others this month

Jose Mourinho confirmed that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling may return before the end of the season, but Juan Mata will probably not play again this season – all three will definitely miss the visit of Chelsea to Old Trafford this weekend. Wayne Rooney, who returned to training earlier in the week but missed the trip to Anderlecht could be involved in the match against the Premier League champions elect, Ashley Young could be in the same boat. There are no suspensions and otherwise, a full team will be available to take on the London club, with United needing a win to make it easier to secure a top four position in the league this season. Antonio Conte does not have any injury concerns or suspensions ahead of the trip to Manchester, which puts his side in a strong position overall.

Previous Meetings: Twelve matches in a row have resulted in United not beating Chelsea. Let’s not make it an unlucky thirteen!

Manchester United and Chelsea have played 176 matches in their history dating back from the 25th December 1905. In total, United have won 75 matches, drawn 49 and lost 52. Chelsea established themselves as the in-form side over the past few seasons, with United barely getting anything they want from the London club. Gone are the days United dominated one of the lesser known London teams, Roman Abramovich cash injection in 2003 has changed that, and the course of football with other clubs following suit, but it not always boosting them to the top like it seems to have done with Chelsea. United last beat Chelsea on the 28th October 2012 in a 3-2 victory in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge with a David Luiz own goal, Robin van Persie, and Javier Hernandez securing all three points for United. The following twelve matches have resulted in five draws and seven defeats for United, something that needed to change earlier in the season, but definitely needs to change at this stage, especially if United are to take anything from the league this season.

Starting XI Prediction: Who is going to start against Chelsea?

This is probably not the starting XI we will see on Sunday, but it is one I would like to see. Timothy Fosu-Mensah needs to get himself some appearances this season, not just coming in at the end of matches. His development only goes as far as training at this moment in time, which does need to change if he is to excel at Manchester United in the coming years – he still has time to make it, though. I think David De Gea, who has missed the last two matches with an apparent injury, will be back, if not, there will be stories galore in the newspapers in the coming week, which Real Madrid will probably enjoy, as he is who they want, according to rumour at least. With the forward line stretched, Anthony Martial, despite his lack of ability when he came on against Anderlecht on Thursday, will flank Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, a player capable of scoring against Chelsea, but did not get a chance to after Ander Herrera, who will return this weekend, was sent off in the last match against the London team. Paul Pogba will be expected to run the midfield, playing a deeper role, with Fosu-Mensah shielding the back four, which will be a gamble, but give him a chance to show what he can do against a tough side, which may just work. If you never try, you never know.

Predicted Score:

Manchester United 1-0 Chelsea

I think Manchester United will be hungry to stop Chelsea in their tracks, albeit a little late to challenge themselves, but will open up the league at the top with Tottenham Hotspur four points adrift, providing they win on Saturday. United have not beaten Chelsea in twelve attempts, that cannot be allowed to be stretched to thirteen, or before we know it, will be twenty matches without a win between the two teams. Chelsea are the team to beat this season – that has only been done five times with Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace doing the business over Antonio Conte’s side in the Premier League and West Ham United beating them in the EFL Cup – hopefully it will be up to six teams beating Chelsea this season with United reigning supreme at Old Trafford on Sunday. I can wish, can’t I?

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