Chelsea can grind out a season-defining victory in battle of the top two
Chelsea have the opportunity to wrap up the Premier League title once and for all as they entertain nearest pursuers Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.
Even Jose Mourinho admits that the Blues haven’t been at their best in recent weeks but they have a terrific record under Mourinho at the Bridge. They haven’t lost a Premier League match at home for the best part of a year and haven’t been beaten in the league since New Year’s Day.
But they have looked a little short of firepower since Diego Costa’s latest injury and the Spanish striker, recently nominated for the Player Of The Year award along with team-mate Eden Hazard, will be missing again against United with Didier Drogba likely to deputise.
Hazard was also way below his best in last week’s win over QPR, though did combine with Oscar to set up Cesc Fabregas’ late winner. Chelsea do still have to go to the Emirates but the result of that game will be almost academic if they beat United and supporters of Louis van Gaal’s team will be mindful that they’ve won just once at Stamford Bridge in the last 12 years – no team has inflicted more defeats on United than Chelsea.
Wayne Rooney and Michael Carrick are pulling most of the strings but the latter limped off in the closing stages last week and may be doubtful. Former Chelsea favourite Juan Mata will be keen to prove a point to Blues fans while Ashley Young has been reminding Roy Hodgson of his capabilities. Marouane Fellaini has also found his best position and United are in better shape than their hosts.
But Chelsea know how to get results in the big games and there is a feeling that United, despite their massive improvement, still aren’t quite the finished article. Both teams already look certain of a place in next season’s Champions League but Mourinho’s team can take a big step towards the title with a narrow victory. They are 19/20 to win with the draw on the handicap with United getting a goal start priced up at 14/5.
The match kicks off at 5.30pm on Saturday, April 18 at Stamford Bridge.