English Premiership

Can United stop the Chelsea machine?

2017-04-16 06:11
BEAST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will carry the hopes of Man United. (Jean Catuffe, Getty Images)

Johannesburg - Form and history favour Chelsea as they travel to a Manchester United side desperate to take the all-important fourth position from their cross-city rivals Manchester City.

If you are a Red Devils fan with the means to travel back in time, you will have to set the clock to October 2012 to enjoy the last time your side overcame the Blues.

The weight of history is unlikely to cause José Mourinho much concern, however, especially since his side has shown no small amount of resilience in reviving their Champions League ambitions recently, by virtue of their Premier League and Europa League performances.

Bereft of confidence

Key to both overcoming their league-topping opponents – and outperforming the Citizens in the race for the last remaining Champions League spot – would be to do as Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs suggested a few days ago and break their reliance on the goals of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

With 30 matches played in the league, the Swede is Mourinho’s only player to see his league goal tally in the double figures – a worrying statistic given the 35-year-old player is likely to depart at the end of the season.

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea have had no such problems this season. In fact, this has been a campaign of few difficulties.

The Italian has managed to convert a side bereft of all confidence into one that has looked like a championship-winning outfit from virtually day one.

What will fill the club’s ambitious fans and owner’s hearts with confidence will be the manner that their side responded to a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace two weeks ago.

By retaining composure and winning their subsequent matches against Manchester City and Bournemouth, they denied Tottenham Hotspur the opportunity to reduce the points gap to four – the lowest it would have been since week 15.

As it stands, however, the title looks to be Conte’s to lose; a fact that Sunday's match-up is unlikely to alter.

In the West Midlands, West Bromwich Albion host third-placed Liverpool in a match that is a must-win for the visitors.

The Reds have played one match more than Manchester City, and lead them by only two points.

Manchester United have played two matches less and find themselves only six points adrift of Jürgen Klopp’s side, and anything but all three points for the visitors could well result in their losing valuable ground in the race for a top-four finish.

At eighth position on the league, the Baggies may be well-positioned for their best Premier League finish, but their recent form is nothing short of appalling, having lost four of their last six matches and taken only a single point from the last nine on offer. TEAMtalk Media

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Saturday, 20 January 2018
Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea, The American Express Community Stadium 14:30
Stoke City v Huddersfield Town, Bet365 Stadium 17:00
Arsenal v Crystal Palace, Emirates Stadium 17:00
Everton v West Bromwich Albion, Goodison Park 17:00
Leicester City v Watford, King Power Stadium 17:00
West Ham United v AFC Bournemouth, London Stadium 17:00
Burnley v Manchester United, Turf Moor 17:00
Manchester City v Newcastle United, Etihad Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 21 January 2018
Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur, St. Mary's Stadium 18:00
Monday, 22 January 2018
Swansea City v Liverpool, Liberty Stadium 22:00
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