Johannesburg - Today’s Premier League clash between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford will be nothing short of interesting.
Third-placed United are 16 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Only four points separate them from fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with Chelsea hot on their heels.
The Blues dropped down to fourth place after back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Watford sent Antonio Conte’s side into a panic.
However, a subsequent 3-0 win over West Brom and a 4-0 thrashing of Hull City in the FA Cup seems to have steadied the ship.
On Tuesday, they faced Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The team is now entering a crucial period of its campaign, with matches against Manchester City and Crystal Palace scheduled before the return leg at Camp Nou.
Conte said the match would be a massive game for the team and reflected on their topsy-turvy form.
“After two bad defeats, we defeated West Brom and played well against Hull and Barcelona,” said the manager.
“You can have a blackout and lose two games. We created lots of goal scoring opportunities when we played against Bournemouth. The Watford match was really bad, but that is in the past.
“Now we must focus on the match against United because we’re talking about a really good team.
“United is always dangerous because the squad is very strong. The team is big and has a lot of fantastic players. When you play against United, you have to know that anything can happen. There is always a risk of losing the game.”
José Mourinho will face a familiar opponent when he resumes his rivalry with Conte.
This after the managers traded insults earlier in the season. However, Conte refuses to talk about the incident.
Mourinho said: “For the past 10 to 15 years, the Manchester United versus Chelsea matches have been big games.
“We are both fighting to be in the top four, but it is always a big game, regardless of what’s at stake.”
Chelsea hope to have Ross Barkley on the pitch when they face the Reds. The midfielder is recovering from a hamstring injury.
Conte confirmed that Tiémoué Bakayoko and David Luiz were ruled out.
The match will probably come too soon for Daley Blind and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Marouane Fellaini will all miss out on game time.
Before the big match at Old Trafford, Crystal Palace will host Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park.
Tottenham are breathing down the necks of the top four, with Chelsea one point ahead of them.
They have not been beaten in their last eight Premier League matches, winning six of the games and drawing the remainder.
Since December, Palace have been making a slow recovery from the shocking start to their campaign.
Their poor performance placed them at the bottom of the log for the first 14 matches of the season.
Roy Hodgson has done a lot of damage control, but the team remains just one point above the drop zone and Palace has been unable to win their past four games. – TEAMtalk Media