Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says new £21m signing Nemanja Matic will not start against Manchester United today.
Fellow midfielder Frank Lampard could return from a calf problem while Serbia defender Branislav Ivanovic remains sidelined with a niggly knee injury.
United boss David Moyes has ruled out strike duo Wayne Rooney (groin), who was publicly courted by the Blues in the summer, and Robin Van Persie (thigh) for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Brazilian Rafael serves the last of his three-match suspension.
As I read the comments posted on my recent review of our victory against Hull last weekend, I came across an interesting comment from the user “WorkingClassPost” which read “Sunday should be interesting; a tale of two transitions, kind of thing”. Hoping WorkingClassPost doesn’t mind, I’ve decided to include it in my match preview, as I feel it excellently reflects, sums up and describes today’s decisive encounter.
A tale of two transitions, with differing fortunes. Either Manchester United or Chelsea have won eight of the past nine Premier League campaigns, establishing themselves as powerhouses of English football, with both winning Champions League medals during the mentioned time period. It was always going to be a challenging period for Manchester United after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from the Red Devils, having done so much for so long, but a seventh place position in January was certainly not expected. However, I feel the fact that most spectators tipped either ourselves or Manchester City to claim the Premier League at the start of the season is a significant prototype of the expectation that United would have to overcome many adversities this season during their transitional period. It is impossible to re-do 26 years of work in one season.
We may sit third in the league, but we have also been experiencing a transitional period, quite different to the one the red side of Manchester have ongoing. With our old guard, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry out of contract in the summer, we have begun building a team for the future, not just as a quick-fix, as Mourinho himself made clear. And with talented youngsters such as Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Gael Kakuta and Ryan Bertrand out on loan, the future looks bright down the Stamford Bridge tunnel.
Regardless of United’s league position, we have other reasons to be confident going into the match. However hard it may be for United to swallow, the truth is none of their midfielders would get into our side. Adnan Januzaj is a rising star and is destined for great things, but you would still pick the in-form Eden Hazard over the 18 year-old starlet. The likes of Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young are undeniably not on a par with Chelsea’s Ramires, Lampard and Oscar. Why, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you why. Since the summer of 2010, we have spent a staggering £229.9 million on midfield reinforcement. As a result, 26 of our league goals have come from our midfield players compared with United’s disappointing seven. Combined with their dodgy defence, uncertain midfield and the respective absences of Van Persie and Rooney, we should win this one.