Improving United capable of shocking the leaders.
Didier Drogba is the only fit striker on Chelsea’s books at the moment and will start against Manchester United at Old Trafford, even though he’s only just returned from an ankle injury himself.
The 36-year-old Ivorian scored against Maribor in the Champions League in midweek after replacing Loic Remy inside the opening quarter. Remy’s injury isn’t serious and probably only enough to sideline the Frenchman for a few days but Diego Costa’s problem is a more long-standing one and no timescale has been put on his return.
As Costa is Chelsea’s top scorers, the Blues are going to miss the Spanish international but they haven’t lost in their last three visits to Old Trafford and are unbeaten in six meetings in all competitions against the Red Devils.
Jose Mourinho no longer has arch-nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson in the opposing dug-out but delights in victories at Old Trafford and will have the Premier League leaders primed for this.
He spent three years as assistant coach under Louis Van Gaal at Barcelona, winning two La Liga titles, one Spanish Cup and the 1997-98 UEFA Super Cup in that time but this is only the second competitive meeting between the two managers.
Mourinho won the first with his Inter Milan side beating van Gaal’s Bayern Munich 2-0 in the 2010 Champions League final at the Bernabeu. They are friends but that friendship will be put on hold for 90 minutes during what is always one of the key matches of the season.
Chelsea remain undefeated and are the top flight’s top scorers. Only Southampton have conceded fewer goals than John Terry and company as well so this is a massive test for new-look United, still without the suspended Rooney and conceding goals for fun.
But there have been more encouraging signs lately that van Gaal’s team is beginning to gel, particularly at Old Trafford, and it’s a very long time since they’ll have been quoted at 9/5 to win a league game on home soil – that might be the value as they do have players like van Persie, Di Maria and Falcao capable of troubling the best defences and Juan Mata will be keen to show Mourinho that he was wrong to let him go. United are 13/5 to score two goals, whatever the match outcome.
The match kicks off at 4.00pm on Sunday, October 26th at Old Trafford.