Big Match Focus: Manchester United v Chelsea

Conte Mourinho

Manchester United can reclaim second place when they face a Chelsea outfit also trying to cement a top four position in Sunday’s blockbuster Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

Premier League
Date: 25 February 2018
Match Day 28
Kick-off: 22H05 HKT
Venue: Old Trafford

Referee: M. Atkinson
Assistants: L. Betts, S. Bennett
Fourth official: A. Marriner

Head-to-head summary

Man United 160 64 45 51
Chelsea 160 51 45 64

Previous encounter

Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United 5/11/17 (Premier League)

Chelsea scorer: Alvaro Morata (55′)

Players to watch

Despite scoring 21 goals in all competitions for United this season, Romelu Lukaku is yet to open his account against any of the big six clubs in England including Chelsea. In fact, the Belgium star has not scored in 17 games involving the Blues including 10 appearances he made for the Londoners between 2011 and 2014. As such, all eyes will be on the powerful forward to see if he can break his duck on Sunday.

Despite a team seemingly packed with attacking quality such as Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro, it perhaps is a surprise that the leading creator of league goals this campaign is Cesar Azpilicueta with six assists. While others further forward generally get the plaudits, the defender goes about his business at the back with efficiency and is adept at getting forward on the overlap as well.

Team form and manager quotes

For the home side, manager Jose Mourinho has seen his team’s grip on second position loosen in recent weeks after defeats to both Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United in the last three games.

However, the Portuguese appears to be playing mind games as he said he regards playing Liverpool as a bigger occasion than facing his old club.

He said: “It’s any normal game and probably to play Liverpool in a couple of weeks’ time means more.

“I don’t have any bad feeling in relation to Chelsea Football Club to say: ‘Oh, I’m going to play against my former club, I am going to prove this, I am going to prove that.’

“I’ve never played against Inter since I left, but I played against Porto, Real Madrid and Chelsea. The feeling is just a good one. Not a special feeling.”

Meanwhile, Antonio Conte refused to get drawn into any verbal warfare with his counterpart instead insisting that he is in his element while coaching his team on the side of the pitch.

Nonetheless, the Italian will no doubt know that Tottenham Hotspur are hot on his side’s heels in fifth and a victory could be a big boost against United.

He told reporters he was focused on the job at hand, saying: “In that moment I’m alone and I don’t see what happens on the other bench or what the other manager does.

“In that moment there is the pitch, my players, the game. I don’t see what happens (anywhere else). This is great for me.”

Team news

For United, midfielder Ander Herrera is out for a few weeks with a muscle injury he picked up against Sevilla in the Champions League.

Defender Eric Bailly is fit and could make his first start since November although Marouane Fellaini, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are out injured.

Meanwhile the hosts have no new concerns, however, David Luiz, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Ross Barkley remain on the sidelines.