Preview: Manchester United v Chelsea

Manchester United’s slender hopes of a top-four finish in the Premier League could hinge on picking up a result when they welcome Chelsea to Old Trafford on Sunday.

Premier League
Date: 16 April 2017
Match Day 33
Kick-off: 17H00 (GMT+2)
Venue: Old Trafford

Head-to-head summary:

Man Utd 158 63 45 50
Chelsea 158 50 45 63

Previous encounter:

Chelsea 1-0 Man Utd 13/03/17 (FA Cup)

Chelsea goalscorer: N. Kante (51′)

Players to watch:

It is potentially a huge match for Manchester United’s record signing Paul Pogba. The France international arrived at Old Trafford at the start of the campaign amid much fanfare with the hope he would transform their midfield. He has so far flattered to deceive, but a big performance against Chelsea would go a long way to redeeming him in many Red Devils fans’ eyes.

The Blues N’Golo Kante will be the man tasks with marking him and that is not good news for Pogba. The 26-year-old was just as instrumental in Leicester City’s unlikely Premier League win last season as he has been in Chelsea’s miraculous turn-around into title favourites this term.

Team form and manager quotes:

While United have not lost in their last five Premier League fixtures, they have not secured nearly as many points as they would’ve liked, with three of those matches ending in disappointing draws.

Manager Jose Mourinho took an interesting angle in his pre-match press conference, choosing to praise the quality of his old side and the strength of their counter-attacking ability.

“They have a certain style of play, they stick to it, they do it very well,” he said. “Not every team defends with 11 players and they defend with 11 players. Not every team is so objective in their counterattacks and they have individual players that can also resolve problems, so they are a very strong team.”

Despite dropping points to Crystal Palace at the start of the month, Chelsea have done an outstanding job of maintaining their lead at the top of the table with six wins in their last seven league games.

Speaking ahead of the match, manager Antonio Conte sought to downplay any extra significance in the fixture, saying three points is all they were after not matter who they play.

“I think this game is like any other game and for us the most important thing is the three points,” he said. “This was our target at the start of the season. For sure the road is long and there are other teams who want to win the title and I think for this reason it will be until the end of the season.”

Team news:

David de Gea is set to return for the Red Devils, which gives their defence a huge boost in this vital tie. Injury worries Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young were both seen training before the match so should play some part, while Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata miss out.

Victor Moses is back in contention for the Blues, giving Conte a fully fit and dangerous looking squad for the match.