The ultimate battle of the fallen giants takes place at Old Trafford on Monday as out-of-sorts Manchester United square off against Premier League holders Chelsea, who sit mere two points above the dotted line. This could prove to be Louis van Gaal’s final game in charge of the Red Devils, that is unless he gets sacked ahead of the 7.45 PM kick-off.
Even when they were at the very top of the Premier League standings, not too many people believed Manchester United were capable of lifting the title this term as their performances were way below the required standard. As expected, the results soon started to be in line with the disappointing showings, with Louis van Gaal currently going through the most difficult period of his career at Old Trafford. Many believe it is only a matter of time before the experienced coach gets the boot, with United winless in last seven and heading into the Chelsea game on the back of four straight defeats that also saw them crash out of the UEFA Champions League. The biggest problem is that the Red Devils do not look like they can return to the right track any time soon, with key men nowhere to be found when things get tough and the lack of confidence throughout the squad causing silly defensive mistakes, such as Memphis Depay’s shocking header that eventually gifted Stoke the lead in the Boxing Day clash.
The good news is that Bastian Schweinsteiger is finally available after serving a three-match ban and no doubt that van Gaal will look to the Germany hotshot to provide much needed boost.
Morgan Schneiderlin and Matteo Darmian should also return to the side, but Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw and Jess Lingard remain in the treatment room.
Midway through the Premier League campaign, the reigning champions find themselves just two points above the relegation zone, but they still go into the high-profile clash in better mood than the opposition. After club owner Roman Abramovich made the difficult decision to sack fans’ favourite Jose Mourinho, Chelsea are finally able to start the recovery process and Guus Hiddink seems like the right man for the job. The Blues did record a comfortable victory over Sunderland in the first match without The Special One, but they were unable to beat red-hot Watford on Hiddink’s return to Stamford Bridge. Nevertheless, the players could not be faulted for the effort or desire to win, and if Oscar hadn’t slipped up while taking the penalty, the Blues would now have two more points to their tally. Diego Costa’s first brace in almost a year was another confidence boost, although the Spaniard is banned for the Manchester United game having picked up the fifth yellow card of the campaign in the worst possible time.
It remains to be seen whether Loic Remy will replace Costa in the starting line-up, but the more likely scenario will see either Oscar or Hazard start as a false nine.
The Belgian returns to the starting line-up after he was rested against Watford, with Ramires, Mikel and Zouma also pushing for a start.
Key Factors to Consider
- Man Utd lost five of last eight meetings against Chelsea
- The Red Devils have suffered four defeats on the bounce
- Manchester United scored just one goal in last three home games
- Chelsea scored a total of eight goals in last four fixtures (W2 D1 L1)
- The Blues did not concede in two of last three away matches
Manchester United players are clearly lacking confidence as well as desire to help Louis van Gaal save his job and they don’t look they can beat revived Chelsea. The Blues, on the other hand, have raised their spirits of late and they might just sneak a victory at Old Trafford.
Verdict: Chelsea Draw no bet
Best Odds: 21/20
Bookmaker: William Hill
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