The fans of Manchester United and Chelsea will know full well that Cholera and Cacophony must be added to the mix to describe their vanguards of success, as Jose Mourinho welcomes his arch nemesis Antonio Conte to Old Trafford in an English Premier League blockbuster tie between two of England’s most successful teams on Sunday, 25th February.
The Reds from Manchester are coming off a fretful visit to Seville where David De Gea was judge, jury and protector – keeping United in the hunt for a Champions League Quarter-final berth by pulling off save after save.
The Blue side of London arguably had the tougher task of keeping Lionel Messi and company quiet, though they managed a stellar 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.
Team news and the home side first. The Portuguese coach will be happy to welcome Eric Bailly. He should be partnered by either Phil Jones or Marcos Rojo, with Chris Smalling enduring a horror outing against Newcastle United.
Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia should retain their places as Mourinho will look for a combined spirit to nullify Chelsea’s threat on the wings.
Pogba and Matic should start in the heart of midfield despite the waning form of both these lynchpins, who were collectively replaced in their last Premier League match at Newcastle United. However, the 55-year-old manager will hope his big name player makes a stand-out return to form in this tie.
Up in attack Romelu Lukaku will again start as the lone attacker as his gaffer will expect him to keep Gary Cahill and Andreas Christensen’s hands full, allowing Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial to exploit the gaps that may arise in the back four.
Jesse Lingard is the favourite to start in the number 10 role, given that he is a versatile option during big games.
Antonio Conte knows anything but a win will lessen their chance of finish in second place, a position occupied by their hosts. The multiple-time Italian serie A winner will go hammer and tongs at a manager’s team he’s had multiple spats with in the recent past.
Thibaut Courtois will retain his starting spot between the sticks, while Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso should also feature in defence. Eden Hazard, seemingly hitting top form, will look to hoodwink the United defence.
Willian’s excellent form is also expected to be rewarded with him starting on the right against United, while N’Golo Kante, one of the best performers for Chelsea on the night versus a silky Barcelona, automatically slots into the set-up.
So will Olivier Giroud get crack at the United defence? Most likely, yes. Cesc Fabregas’ deadly balls from the back are expected to light up the path for the former Arsenal striker, who will want a clear crack at the 20-time champions’ defence.
It’s a match for the ages, despite not bearing the halo of a title-clinching contest in the north-west of England. However, as the stage is set for the teams to rule, a significant focus will be handed to the proceedings on the touchline, between two rancorous coaches and their display of ‘sportsmanship’.
Chelsea have enjoyed the upper-hand over the Red Devils of late but Manchester United will be eager to pull one over the Blues. Will we see Mourinho emerge victorious or will Conte get to embark on a passionate celebration on the touchlines at Old Trafford?