27th October 2012
High-flying Chelsea will be looking to prove their title credentials and possibly create a decisive advantage over their rivals when they take on Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The Red Devils are aware a defeat could virtually rule them out of the title race, but the prospect of closing the gap to just one point could inspire them to a positive approach.
Not too many people would have tipped Chelsea to lead the Premiership race after 8 rounds, but the reality is the Blues have a four-point cushion at the top having dropped just two points along the way. Team’s Champions League showings have not been nearly as good, with the midweek’s defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk putting their qualifying hopes in doubt, but the Blues won’t be too downhearted by their European failures if they manage to beat United on Sunday. Club icons Frank Lampard and John Terry miss out through injury and suspension respectively, but that could prove to be a blessing in disguise given that neither player has been too impressive this season. Eden Hazard returns to the side at the expense of Lampard, after he was rested in midweek, with Gary Cahill replacing John Terry in the starting line-up. After scoring in every one of their last eight games, the Blues can be trusted to get past David De Gea, but their back line will have to show some improvement having conceded five goals in last three games.
Manchester United are never too impressive in the first part of the season, but it is really remarkable how they always keep the results respectable when their showings leave a lot to be desired. Despite the major selection problems that never seem to go away, the Red Devils have stayed in touch with their title rivals, while somehow winning all three Champions League games. The hard-fought victory over Sporting Braga in midweek is likely to prove an additional boost to the players, with Sir Alex Ferguson hoping for a fifth successive triumph in all competitions. Unfortunately for the Scottish manager, Shinji Kagawa has been ruled out of the Chelsea game through a knee injury, but the good news is both Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are nearing their return. Anders Lindegaard and Nemanja Vidic remain long-term casualties.
Being four points clear of the Manchester rivals, Chelsea have no reason to rush into anything, even if a win can see them create a seven-point advantage over United. The Red Devils are clearly not playing to their potential at the moment, which is why they would probably settle for one point from Stamford Bridge.
Verdict: Draw (X)
Best Odds: 5/2
Bookmaker: Stan James