United will take on a rejuvenated Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Following back-to-back losses against Manchester City, at home, and the away tie against Crystal Palace, Chelsea has stepped up and gotten back to the winning ways in the Premier League. Victories over Watford and Bournemouth have seen Antonio Conte’s team break back into the top four.
The Blues, though, have had an inconsistent season so far, as they trail league leaders Manchester City by nine points after 10 games. With striker Alvaro Morata forced out for a brief while with a hamstring injury, their attack has lacked a focal point. The two defeats this season for Conte’s team is the same number Chelsea had lost in the entire 2016-17 campaign.
They have picked up their performance in the last two games, especially as they overturned a 1-2 deficit against Watford to scamper to a 4-2 victory. But they might have to dig deeper against a United side led by their former manager Jose Mourinho. Also, their morale is not the highest after a damaging 3-0 midweek loss against Roma in the Champions League.
Mourinho’s team bounced back impressively after the surprise loss against Huddersfield Town, with a commendable 1-0 win against Spurs. Anthony Martial came off the bench on that occasion to net the winner, giving him his sixth goal as a substitute this season.
United’s threat though remains former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku. The strong Belgian remains a looming presence at the front though he doesn’t quite have the goals to back it up. But Lukaku has applied himself well and had set up Martial’s winner against Spurs.
United will still miss the services of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, who are still out with injurt. Veteran midfielder Michael Carrick, though, has returned to training and could be available for Sunday’s clash.
The 36-year-old, who had once forged a formidable midfield partnership with Paul Scholes, has remained a relevant figure for United given his composure, passing range, accuracy and awareness. The skill-set has made him a target in the January transfer window with the likes of Leicester City and West Bromwich Albion showing interest. Mourinho though has asserted his desire for Carrick to remain with United.
Carrick has so far made just once appearance this term, and has now returned after a two-month layoff due to health issues.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s main threat will come from Eden Hazard. The talismanic Belgian had a slow start to the campaign, but has steadily picked up as the season progressed. He scored the winner against Bournemouth last week, and had netted twice to earn Chelsea a 3-3 draw against Roma in the Champions League over a fortnight ago.
More interestingly, it all sets up perfectly for a grudge game between two managers who have been at each other's throats for some time now.