Chelsea head to Old Trafford in search of their first Premier League win at Manchester United since 2013, and rarely might they have felt so equipped. The Blues could only manage a one-all draw at Stamford Bridge in November but have one of the best away records in the league, while the Red Devils struggle to find consistent form under Ralf Rangnick.
Last year’s Premier League runners-up currently sit sixth in the table and come into the clash off the back of a defeat to Arsenal, a position Thomas Tuchel’s men were in before the weekend’s late win over West Ham. However, while Chelsea have had their troubles at Stamford Bridge, they have the league’s best away form outside of Manchester City. Little wonder that the German coach heads to the northwest with victory on his mind.
Rangnick has a number of injury problems to deal with, but Tuchel may be able to call upon Antonio Rudiger and Reece James for the clash after they missed the win over the Irons on Sunday. The duo needed to see how they came through training on Wednesday afternoon, as did Andreas Christensen, who was to be examined following a bout of sickness.
Ross Barkley is out with a similar issue, while Ben Chilwell, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mateo Kovacic all remain unavailable. Though the former is readying to train with the academy next week as he continues his rehabilitation from his ACL injury.
It’s another midweek match for Tuchel to contend with, too, though with a known schedule, it is easier for the German coach to plan the management of his squad until the end of the season – the Blues even have six days between matches following Everton at the weekend.
Nevertheless, Edouard Mendy will retain his place in goal, and with the uncertainty around Christensen, Thiago Silva will continue at the heart of the defence. Providing he proves his fitness, Rudiger will slot straight back into that spot on his left.
The spot on the Brazilian’s right will perhaps be the most interesting, with Cesar Azpilicueta, Trevoh Chalobah and James all in contention for it. With James returning from injury Tuchel could be tempted to make use of him in that less demanding position, but a strong return to the XI from Chalobah at the weekend could see the youngster keep his place.
James and Marcos Alonso are the obvious choices at wing-back, and with Tuchel suggesting the former didn’t have an injury against West Ham, he could be ready to head straight back into the starting lineup. That choice would leave Ruben Loftus-Cheek in search of a position, and he could partner N’Golo Kante or Jorginho in the centre of the pitch. The ex-Crystal Palace loanee partnered the Frenchman against Arsenal, and the pair would need a better performance if chosen against Manchester United.
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount are as close to the Blues have in certainties at the top of the pitch, and while Timo Werner’s form has earned him plenty of playing time since his display at Southampton, Christian Pulisic’s goal on Sunday could see him offered an opportunity from the off.
Predicted Chelsea XI: Mendy; Chalobah, Silva, Rudiger; James, Kante, Jorginho, Alonso; Mount, Pulisic, Havertz.