The big games just keep on coming for Manchester United. Fresh from a hard-fought goalless draw away to Sevilla in their Champions League round of 16 first-leg clash on Wednesday night, the Reds will welcome reigning domestic champions Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon for what should be a mouth-watering contest.
Just three points and two spots separate second-placed United from the Blues and manager Jose Mourinho will be desperate to get the better of rival Antonio Conte and avenge November’s 1-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge. The Old Trafford faithful will be hoping for a much more attacking performance than the one they witnessed in Spain on Wednesday night, as the Reds rarely threatened the La Liga outfit’s goal and had the superb David de Gea to thank for coming away with a clean sheet. All eyes will be on what starting XI Mourinho opts for against the Blues, with particular focus on whether Paul Pogba will return to the fold or once again be left on the substitute’s bench. Against Sevilla, the Reds boss opted for a midfield three of Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and highly-impressive youngster Scott McTominay. However, Herrera’s injury barely 20 minutes into proceedings saw Pogba come off the bench earlier than expected and could line up against the Blues.
Pogba may not be the only change to the starting line-up. At centre-back, Eric Bailly made his long-awaited return to action in the closing moments of last weekend’s FA Cup win over Huddersfield Town, although it remains to be seen whether Mourinho will thrust the Ivory Coast international back into the fold for such a crunch encounter. Wednesday night also saw the return of Marcus Rashford, who had missed the Reds’ last three games through injury. The England international put in one of his finest performances to date in this fixture last season and Mourinho will be hoping for a repeat display from the 20-year-old. Up front, Reds top scorer Romeulu Lukaku, who has six goals in his last nine appearances, will be hoping to find the back against his former employers, Matic, who joined United from the Blues just last summer, will be tasked with keeping out his ex-teammates.
A win for Mourinho’s men will strengthen their grip on second spot but a defeat would throw the race for a top-four spot wide open, allowing arch-rivals Liverpool to overtake United in second place. Whilst United had de Gea to thank on Wednesday night, it is the Reds attacking players that must rise to the occasion against Chelsea, as only a win will do in one of the most anticipated matches of the season.