Chelsea will host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in what is to be the 25th week of Barclays Premier League. Since their defeat to Leicester City in December, Chelsea has carried forward an unbeaten streak of ten matches under interim head coach, Guus Hiddink.
The Blues have won five out of those ten games, two of which came in the domestic cup tournaments. Hence, they still stand 13th in the league with a long and hard journey ahead of them to muscle their way into the upper half of the table.
This match will be a test of nerves, especially for Chelsea, who would be looking forward to extending their unbeaten streak. The Blues have been far from their best, but, somehow, have survived in the most delicate situations under Hiddink. If Chelsea can manage a win against United, who haven’t beaten them since last four fixtures, it would be a huge boost for the rest of their survival campaign.
We take a look at the best playing XI Chelsea should field in the fixture against bitter rivals to get the best out of this mouthwatering clash.
Since Gary Cahill went down the pecking order under new boss, Guus Hiddink, Chelsea needed someone to partner with skipper John Terry in the defence, and there was no better option in sight than Kurt Zouma, who is athletic and a good passer of the ball. Over time, the French professional has developed from a temporary replacement for Cahill to a first choice partner with Terry at the heart of the defence.
The strong-framed defender lacks man-marking abilities but is capable of holding off and irritating the likes of Martial or Rooney with speed. While a defensive collapse prevailed at Chelsea for much of the first half of the season, Zouma stood out as the only answer to it besides Terry.
After a shaky start to his campaign, Ivanovic has settled well into his right-back position in recent matches. Azpilicueta, who was considered a weak link at left-back, has matched Ivanovic’s might in every department this season. Both the players have played 20 games between them in the league and have been supplemental in creating attacks and tracking back.
Ivanovic can hold back Manchester United if he can neutralise attacks from Anthony Martial, a fast and well-crafted dribbler, who plays on the left wing, as opposed to Ivanovic’s right back position.
Last season, Fabregas played behind Costa, and we witnessed some of the most lethal attacking midfield performances from him. However, Mourinho deployed him at the centre of his formation this season, alongside Matic, to control the game end-to-end. He has failed to deliver so far.
The short story is, Chelsea need a world class box-to-box player in this position, and they need it now more than ever to play beside Matic and push Fabregas further up the pitch to create attacks. John Obi Mikel needs to partner up with Matic, being the only viable option available to Hiddink, at least as long as Chelsea buy a replacement.
ATTACKING MIDFIELD AND WINGS:
Hiddink has sidelined Pedro and Hazard in recent matches. Their performance levels have been below par and have failed to make an impact throughout the season. The only three players who have the ability and are in form to deliver in this position are Fabregas, in the middle, and Oscar and Willian on the wings. Oscar and Willian are fast and can create problems for United’s midfield duo, Michael Carrick, and Fellaini, both of whom are sluggish and do not have much pace.
Costa may have struggled a bit earlier in the season, but has been relentless since Hiddink took over. Remy and Falcao are yet to make a comeback from injury, and Alex Pato has just arrived on the scene which makes Costa the best suited forward.
Undoubtedly, Courtois is the man with the gloves for Chelsea. Though he has kept only four clean sheets this season, many of the goals scored against him were due to the blunders caused by the defenders.