Manchester United’s visit to Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon is one of those fixtures which could genuinely go all of three ways. Whilst Chelsea were unbeaten during January following a four-match winless run at the end of 2011, they were rarely convincing.
Draws away to both Norwich and Swansea meant that Andre Villa-Boas won just two points from away fixtures against last season’s promoted Championsip clubs, a return which sums up his side’s ‘transitional’ season.
With John Terry out through injury and free to nurse his grievance against the FA from the stands, Gary Cahill is the obvious choice to make his Chelsea debut in his place, particularly with Ashley Cole also out through suspension. Ramires is also missing with a knee injury he picked up in last weekend’s FA Cup win over QPR.
Chelsea are realistically playing for fourth place this season with even a win on Sunday only enough to take them nine points behind United and Manchester City at the top of the table. Four teams are currently in the running for the coveted prize of the fourth Champions League place and Newcastle could even be level on points with Chelsea if they beat Aston Villa at home the day before.
As for United, despite humiliations at home to Blackburn and City they are still level on points with their noisy neighbours at the top of the table. With last weekend’s FA Cup defeat away to Liverpool meaning that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side only have the league to play for they will be completely focused on the task in hand. It seems strange that what has been such an underwelming season could still end in a 20th League title but that was very much the case last season too. United have learned how to win titles without much style.
Goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard is out for six weeks with an ankle injury meaning that Ferguson may have no choice but to recall diminutive David de Gea who continues to look like a junior picked to play with the seniors because they’re one short. Apart from that United are at full strength with Tom Cleverley available for selection for the first time since October.
Fernando Torres made his infamous ‘miss of the season’ in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season but apart from his miss looked pretty sharp on that day.
I’m going with Torres to end his scoring drought of more than 1,000 minutes on Sunday and Chelsea to repeat last season’s 2-1 home victory over the Red Devils.
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