Chelsea are likely to be without the services of midfield mainstay N’Golo Kante when they visit Old Trafford to face off against Manchester United.

Chelsea will be aiming to strengthen their grip on the fourth spot in the Premier League table, when they lock horns with top four rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Chelsea come into the game without a win in their last two Premier League outings, with their most recent fixture ending in a 2-2 draw against bottom-half side Burnley earlier in the week. With Arsenal and Manchester United breathing down their necks, they can’t afford to drop any more points if they are to finish in the top four.

Chelsea have received an injury boost ahead of the big game against Manchester United as key defender Antonio Rudiger is back in contention after missing the Burnley clash. “Rudiger is okay,” manager Maurizio Sarri claimed in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

The German international should return to the starting lineup against Manchester United, replacing Andreas Christensen. The rest of the backline should remain intact though, with Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Emerson Palmieri all starting in front of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The midfield department is a bit of a cause for concern for Sarri and Chelsea as N’Golo Kante is a major doubt to feature on Sunday, after injuring his ribs in the Burnley clash. Speaking of the Frenchman, the manager said, “We are trying to recover Kante but I am not sure at the moment.”

Kante’s absence should pave way for either of Ross Barkley or Mateo Kovacic to get a starting berth in the middle of the park, with Sarri likely to stick with the former, as he offers a bit more than Kovacic going forward. The other two slots in the Chelsea midfield are locked down by Jorginho and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has been ruled out for the rest of the season after he picked up an Achilles Tendon injury against Burnley and has had to undergo a surgery. “The operation of Callum went in the right way. He needs time now. Callum is a very strong young man, physically and mentally. I am sure he will be able to return better than before,” Sarri said about the youngster.

Hudson-Odoi’s absence should pave way for Pedro to feature on the right side of Chelsea’s attacking trident against Manchester United. Eden Hazard could once again be used in a false nine role by Sarri, who has done so quite regularly against the big teams this season. That would open up a space on the left flank for Brazilian winger Willian.

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