Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge for Sunday’s Premier League clash, with Jose Mourinho looking for his 100th league win with the club. Although the defending champions are currently nine points behind the Blues, Mourinho was diplomatic about the situation in his pre-match press conference (via ChelseaFC.com)
Read the match programme, my notes, I start by saying we don't play against a team that are 11 points behind the leader, we play against the champions, we play against Manchester United.
That's the way I start my notes in the programme and that's exactly the way I feel. I've been in the game a long time, I've played dozens and dozens of derbies and classic matches, games between the big teams and that's what experience says. On many occasions, the team that looks to be in the most difficult situation appears stronger in the match, that's why I consider this game especially dangerous.
It's the next match and if I can do it in the next match it's better than doing it in three, four or five matches away. My 100th victory in the Premier League with Chelsea is going to happen; is it against United, West Ham or later? I don't know, what I know is that the number will arrive.
We are going to try to do it against Man United because now we play two matches at home, after playing two matches away, and we have to try to go for the six points.
Cesar Azpilicueta will likely start at right-back, with John Terry and Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence. With the club announcing that Ryan Bertrand is leaving Stamford Bridge to spend the rest of the season on loan at Aston Villa, Ashley Cole will retain his position at left-back.
Lampard’s recovery could see him start next to Ramires in the holding role. With that said, David Luiz has shown throughout his career that he performs at his best in the biggest games. This tweet from his account, posted on Tuesday, shows how much he relishes these occasions.
5 days! Are you ready? pic.twitter.com/Ln2ijIiEpo— David Luiz (@DavidLuiz_4) January 14, 2014
The midfield trio is likely to remain unchanged. Eden Hazard became Chelsea’s top scorer for the season with his strike against Hull City, while Willian’s work rate has pushed him further towards becoming one of Mourinho’s new untouchables. Oscar’s ability to boss the midfield despite his slight build should see him start as the No. 10.
Fernando Torres has hit a good run of form in recent weeks with two goals from two games. However, his overall work rate has been below par and he was largely nonexistent until his goal in the dying minutes against Hull City.
Because of this, there is a good chance that Mourinho will prefer Samuel Eto’o up front on Sunday.
United will sweat on the fitness of both Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, both of whom could return from their respective injuries to play some part in the game. Despite the obvious advantage that their absence would give Chelsea, Mourinho told ChelseaFC.com that he would prefer them to play.
I'd prefer them to play, the best thing is to play against the best players at the maximum of their potential. We did that when we went to Old Trafford, they played Rooney and Van Persie together and that was the best thing for us and the game. For us, the focus, concentration and motivation is bigger when they are there so I hope they are.
Manchester United have been performing well below expectations this season, but they are beginning to show signs of finding their feet. They have won three away games on the bounce, and although their newfound consistency has undoubtedly arrived too late for them to retain their Premier League crown, taking three points away from Stamford Bridge could derail Chelsea’s title ambitions.