This fixture begins a 13-game run-in during which Chelsea and Manchester United each hope to claim a Champions League spot. For Frank Lampard, a potentially season-defining run of post-winter break fixtures coming up which begins with this encounter on Monday night.
The visit of the Red Devils to Stamford Bridge is the first of four high-profile home matches where Chelsea also entertain Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Liverpool across three different competitions in the coming weeks.
Both teams go into the match winless in their final three top-flight contests before the winter break, while a victory for either side will be vital in the race for top-four. Champions League qualification is now wide open following Manchester City’s ban from UEFA competition.
Chelsea boast a strong home record against United in the Premier League, though lost 2-1 in the Carabao Cup fourth round back in October thanks to Marcus Rashford’s sensational free-kick. The Blues were also beaten 4-0 in the reverse fixture on the opening weekend of the season, though it seems that result hasn’t shown the complexion in terms of how the season has panned out for both sides.
Chelsea Manager Frank Lampard has already said that they will assess top goal-scorer Tammy Abraham’s fitness prior to the match. The England striker played through the pain barrier in the clubs last League outing in the 2-2 draw at Leicester City. Abraham suffered an ankle injury against Arsenal and he has not trained fully in the build-up.
In Lampard’s team selection it comes down to what formation he will select. If he chooses a 4-2-3-1 formation then in the double pivot he will select Jorginho and N’Golo Kante. However, if he wants more possession and solidarity in the midfield then he will select a 4-3-3 with Matteo Kovacic coming into the XI.
An area of the pitch where Lampard will have another selection headache is in the centre of the defence. Antonio Rudiger has been exceptional since his return from injury and he has kept Fikayo Tomori out of the side, who also has been impressive. But, it seems Andreas Christensen and Rudiger are the preferred duo in the back line and Lampard will continue to use the pair together so that they can build on their partnership.
Monday night is a game that is too early to use long-term absentee Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Lampard said the England international is making good progress since returning to training. Christian Pulisic remains doubtful, the American is still working his way back from a groin problem.
As for United, they too have an England international who will not be taking part in this encounter. Marcus Rashford is still out injured and it will be a while until United fans can see their top goal-scorer this season return to action. Deadline day loan signing Odion Ighalo – who did not accompany his new team-mates to their warm-weather training camp in Marbella – will travel to Stamford Bridge and is expected to feature to some extent, most likely as a substitute
Midfield duo Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay remain unavailable, along with Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Lee Grant. However, former Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic is back after suspension and will most likely get a warm reception following his move to Chelsea’s rivals in recent seasons.
Kepa, James, Christensen, Rudiger, Azpilicueta, Kante, Jorginho, Willian, Hudson-Odoi, Mount, Abraham
Manchester United: 4-3-3
De Gea, Wann-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams, Matic, Fred, Fernandes, James, Greenwood, Martial
With both sides struggling for wins in the Premier League and allowing the likes of Sheffield United, Wolves and Everton a lifeline of claiming that all important Champions League fourth spot.
For Chelsea, a win will take them nine points clear of their visitors who for the same reason, will be desperate to avoid defeat and claim a victory themselves to close the gap to three points. This could be a kick starter for Lampard’s men as they enter their toughest period of the season.
It would be no surprise to see if this match ends up flooded with goals, or even a draw that fails to truly spark into action.