Manchester United against Chelsea is a season-defining encounter for both teams.
United’s clash with Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) is a straight battle for a top four spot, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side three points behind Maurizio Sarri‘s men with three games to play.
A win for United (which would be a welcome relief after seven defeats in their last nine games in all competitions) would reignite their top four hopes, but a Chelsea victory would all but end United’s chances.
Both teams are way off the pace in the title race but considering their rollercoaster campaigns, a top four finish would be a very decent outcome, especially for Sarri in his first season in England as his main aim was to return the Blues to the Champions League. With Chelsea in the semifinals of the UEFA Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt in the next 10 days, they also have a chance of reaching the UCL if they win that trophy
With injuries and selection dilemmas mounting up for both managers, below is a look at how United and Chelsea could line up at Old Trafford on Sunday.
—– De Gea —–
— Young — Smalling — Lindelof — Shaw —
—- Matic —- Herrera —-
—- Mata —- Pogba —- Lukaku —-
—– Rashford —–
—– Kepa —–
— Azpilicueta — Rudiger — Luiz — Emerson —
—- Kovacic —- Jorginho —- Barkley —-
—- Hazard —- Higuain —- Willian —-
United’s players are out of form and lacking in confidence, so switching things up will be a good way to go for Solskjaer. In their FA Cup win at Chelsea earlier this year they deployed Lukaku up front, and he drifted out to the flanks and got plenty of joy as he pushed forward in support of Rashford. I’d expect to see the same United team which beat Chelsea back in February. Freshening things up by bringing Juan Mata into midfield will also be key, while defensively Solskjaer doesn’t have too many options other than to go with the players he has fit and available. Bringing in veterans Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera to midfield makes sense for a huge game like this, and having Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard on the bench to make an impact would also be a smart move.
Chelsea’s back four picks itself as Antonio Rudiger has shaken off a knock and Emerson continues to perform well ahead of Marcos Alonso. In midfield there could be a huge hole as N'Golo Kante is struggling with injury. If Kante misses out, two from Matteo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek will likely join Jorginho in the center with Sarri sticking to his preferred 4-3-3 formation. Up top, the big decision is whether Eden Hazard plays as a false nine with Willian and Pedro (Callum Hudson-Odoi is out for three months after rupturing his Achilles) in support, or if one of the latter drops out with Gonzalo Higuain given another chance to prove himself as a central striker. I think Higuain will get one last chance to prove his worth on the big stage.