Chelsea vs Manchester United: Red Devils can keep Blues at bayPublished February 4, 2016
Two of the season’s big underachievers meet at Stamford Bridge in a game that, at least for Chelsea, has little but pride at stake. Manchester United still retain hopes of a top four finish, but they are currently five-points shy of the Champions League places and, with games starting to run out, can’t really afford for that gap to grow any larger. Defeat here could potentially be hugely damaging.
Chelsea’s focus now will largely be on the Champions League and FA Cup. They will certainly want to secure a top-half Premier League finish as a bare minimum though and victory here would leave them within eight points of Manchester United. That would still be a sizable gap at this stage in the season, but not insurmountable and would give them something to aim at.
Chelsea’s form has picked up since Guus Hiddink was appointed on a temporary basis and the goalless draw at Watford on Wednesday night leaves them unbeaten in 10-matches in all competitions. For all that, they’ve only won two of their last seven in the Premier League. Performances have been hit and miss and their last three league games at Stamford Bridge have ended as high-scoring draws against opposition (Watford, West Bromwich Albion and Everton) they would normally expect to beat.
The game has an added interest given recent events off the field. Now that Pep Guardiola’s been confirmed as the new Manchester City manager for next season, it will only increase speculation that former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will succeed Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford.
Manchester United travel to London on the back of two decent results, with a 3-1 FA Cup win at Derby County followed by Tuesday’s 3-0 Old Trafford victory against Stoke City. Three points at Stamford Bridge and they will start to believe that they can secure a top-four finish without having to rely on others slipping up.
Wayne Rooney has started 2016 in decent goal-scoring form with seven to his name already. If the Red Devils are to break into the top four, you would think that he will need to maintain a healthy strike-rate over the remaining months of the campaign.
The reverse fixture at Old Trafford in late December ended 0-0 and goals could again be at a premium here. The greater incentive is unquestionably with the visitors and that makes them look worthy of backing on the Asian Handicap +0.5 which will ensure a winning bet provided they can avoid defeat.