Save the date — this Sunday, rivals Chelsea and Manchester United will square off at Stamford Bridge to decide … very little. Any other year, this would be the match of the season, but not at the moment.
To be fair, United have been in great form as of late despite a terrible season overall. Manager David Moyes has taken a lot of flak for problems outside of his control. He was left with an aging squad and younger players who are not up to the standard that United usually maintain — I mean, come on, Tom Cleverley gets regular minutes.
Yet, most significantly, injury has hit his two best players early on in the season, and both Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie will be missing once again.
This puts the pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side to collect all three points; anything less would be deemed a failure. In terms of Premier League form, Chelsea have four wins and a tie, and United have four wins and a loss in their last five games. Not bad for a side in turmoil.
The focus will likely be on each team’s younger players in the days leading up to the game. Both Eden Hazard and Adnan Januzaj have been standouts this season, with the latter only recently breaking into the first team. Unfortunately, it has been United’s disappointments that have stolen the headlines this season. Marouane Fellaini, Shinji Kagawa and Wilfried Zaha have all failed to make much of an impact at the Theater of Dreams.
I for one, am still a huge fan of Kagawa and believe he could do much better elsewhere.
For Chelsea, this is a must-win game. The Blues are within two points of league leaders Arsenal despite sitting in third place behind Manchester City, and both will host bottom-feeder sides, Fulham and Cardiff City, this weekend respectively. Barring a miracle, the Gunners and Citizens should take three points this weekend, and Chelsea must do the same to stay in contention.
The signing of Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic proves Chelsea’s commitment to the title race, and the Serbian is just the type of player they need in the squad. The Blues haven’t had a player that can consistently and effectively transition the play from defense to offense since the departure of Michael Ballack.
It will be a close matchup, but still expect Chelsea to take care of business at home and continue Mourinho’s unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge.