Chelsea and Manchester United lock horns in the most intriguing fixture of the FA Cup quarter finals.
Antonio Conte’s appointment in the summer has seen Chelsea welcome the 2016/17 Premier League season with added positivity and a new system that has started to bring the best out of their players. The Italian has deployed a 3-4-3, and every player seems to have adapted perfectly to the change in system.
Their good performances have turned into them add a considerable amount of points on the table which has eventually seen them build a colossal ten-point lead at the top of the Premier League standings. Currently, the Blues look unstoppable and are likely to see off Manchester United, unless the Red Devils catch them on an off day.
For the visitors, their topsy-turvy season has continued as they failed to beat Bournemouth in the league as well as FC Rostov in the Europa League, despite being the dominating team on both occasions.
Manager Jose Mourinho has blamed bad luck as the reason for his side’s below average performances, but they appear to lack the cutting edge of the yester years that has helped them get over the line.
Team News & Tactics
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has been playing weakened teams in cup competitions this season, but is unlikely to make any wholesale changes given that his team are only two wins away from playing in the cup final at Wembley.
Thibaut Courtois is expected to be given a day off with Asmir Begovic taking up stations between the sticks. In defence, John Terry could be given a rare start at the expense of Gary Cahill, partnering Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz.
With Conte constantly rotating between Pedro and Willian, he could decide to start with the Brazilian, given the Spaniard’s tireless performance last weekend. Diego Costa is set to lead the line.
Chelsea Probable XI: Begovic; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Costa, Hazard.
Manchester United FC
Jose Mourinho will be disappointed with his side’s shape going into the game as recent reports suggest that he will be without the services of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney.
This could see Henrikh Mkhitaryan lead the line as he did in mid-week against FC Rostov alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede is ruled out of the game as he serves his first of the three-match ban handed to him for violent conduct.
Knowing Mourinho’s tendency to opt for a direct brand of football, Marouane Fellaini could be inserted into the starting eleven, giving United a strong presence up front. Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera are expected to play behind the Belgian.
In defence, Eric Bailly is likely to return to the starting eleven after sitting out United’s 1-1 Europa League draw through suspension. He will be partnered by Marcos Rojo at the heart of United’s back line.
Manchester United Probable XI: De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Blind; Pogba, Herrera; Mata, Fellaini, Lingard; Mkhitaryan.
- Manchester United have won seven of their last nine FA Cup ties v Chelsea, but have lost the last two (2007 Final, R6 in 2013).
- Jose Mourinho has won four of his last six games against teams he previously managed (L2) but was beaten 4-0 earlier in the season on his return to Stamford Bridge.
- Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 11 meetings with Manchester United in all competitions (W6 D5), last losing to them 3-2 in October 2012.
- The Red Devils have scored just three times in their last nine clashes with Chelsea, and never more than once in any of those games.
- Chelsea and Manchester United have met in the sixth round of the FA Cup three times before, with the Blues progressing twice (1949/50 and 2012/13).
- Antonio Conte reached the Coppa Italia quarter finals in each of his three seasons at Juventus, but didn’t go onto win the tournament (runners-up 2011/12, semi-final 2012/13 and quarter-final 2013/14).
- The last time Jose Mourinho reached an FA Cup semi-final was in 2006/07, going onto beat his current club Manchester United in the final.
Player to watch out for
Given the supposed absence of Rooney, Martial and Rashford and with Ibrahimovic ruled out, Manchester United will be looking for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to deliver the goals.
The Armenian is expected to play as a false nine, and his energy and drive could help propel the Red Devils over the line. It will be interesting to see how he takes to his new role and deliver the goods in the quarter-finals.
Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United
Mourinho is unlikely to set up an attacking side and is expected to make things difficult for the hosts to break them down. Chelsea are expected to have the better of chances, and may just edge out the visitors on Monday.
Also, with United bereft of a number of attacking options, it will be an ordeal for them to find the back of the net against the Blues. Both sides are likely to name strong teams, and it will make decent watching for the neutral.