The Champions-elect visit Old Trafford this Sunday as Manchester United return to Premier League action against Chelsea.
Antonio Conte’s side seem to have the title all but secured, despite a hiccup against a spirited Crystal Palace side last week they are seven points clear of rivals Tottenham. However, if the Blues were to lose on Sunday, and Spurs secure an expected win against Bournemouth, the gap would drop to just four points, and then it becomes very interesting going into the final few weeks of the campaign.
United are coming off a 1-1 draw in Europe against Anderlecht, which was both disappointing and satisfactory depending on the kind of fan you are – (I’m more of a glass half-full kind of guy). Zlatan Ibrahimovic did play the full 90 minutes in Brussels but, his fitness hasn’t come into question so far this season so the 35-year-old should be good to lead the line against a very experienced Chelsea defence.
United currently lie in 5th, four points behind neighbours Manchester City with a game in hand. A win this Easter Sunday could be the resurrection of Mourinho’s campaign for a top four finish. The question is whether the boss will look to park the stone in front of the goal, or whether he will look to the cross for glory. Ok, I promise that’s all the puns I have, maybe. The Reds are still on a 21 match unbeaten run in the Premier League and if that run is extended this weekend I’m sure the Old Trafford faithful would go home happy.
David De Gea could return in goal after a minor hip injury kept him out of the game against Sunderland last weekend. Antonio Valencia was brought back in against Anderlecht on Thursday after missing two games and he will be vital in forcing Alonso back into a more defensive role. I can see Valencia dealing with Alonso very well. Juan Mata has been ruled out until late May and will potentially play no further part in United’s season. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are also sidelined through injury. Chelsea meanwhile, have a clean bill of health and Conte has a full squad to choose from.
Chelsea have won the previous two meetings this season, both at Stamford Bridge. A 4-0 routing in the league and more recently, a 1-0 F.A Cup win. United have seriously struggled at home in recent months and that will need to change if they are to get anything from this game. Chelsea will certainly not sit back for 90 minutes yet I feel Conte would be satisfied with a draw and taking a five-point lead over Spurs (should they win). I’m going to be optimistic and go for a 2-1 United win.