Chelsea take on Manchester United at Old Trafford in the standout fixture of matchweek 33 in the Premier League, aiming to take another step closer to lifting the title.
The Blues are unbeaten in 12 matches against their rivals and will be hoping to get one over on former boss Jose Mourinho once again, a little over a month after knocking the Red Devils out of the FA Cup.
If anything, though, Thursday evening’s 1-1 draw in the Belgian capital taught us nothing new about Manchester United, as once again they failed to win a game that they largely dominated – the 14th time this season they have been held in all competitions, six of which have come in matches that they have led 1-0 in.
Nine home draws in 2016-17, including five out of six since the turn of the year, has left United four points adrift of rivals Manchester City and very much now playing catch-up in the race for fourth place.
Mourinho, whose side boasts the longest unbeaten run of any side in Europe’s major five leagues, also has to contend with a tricky fixture list that sees his men navigate away games with Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the remaining weeks.
Despite Tottenham’s best efforts in recent weeks, putting together an impressive run of 13 wins in their last 16 outings, Chelsea boss Conte can now almost touch a fourth domestic title success in four attempts.
That is not to say that the West London outfit are flying, though, because they have kept out the opposition just once in their last 11 league matches and could well concede for a 10th game in a row this weekend – only twice before have they endured a longer such run without shutting out their opponents in the Prem era, both coming in 1996.
It is in stark contrast to earlier in the season when first reverting to their current 3-4-3 formation, implemented to make them more solid at the back and also getting the best out of star attacker Eden Hazard, as they conceded just four goals during an incredible 13-match-winning streak.
Unbeatable they are certainly not, but Chelsea are at the top of the division for a reason and know that three more points at the Theatre of Dreams on Sunday and the first letter of their name can surely be carved into the top-flight crown.
Ibrahimovic heads into this weekend’s match on the back of a strong run of form, playing a part in 18 goals in his last 17 Premier League appearances, but he has failed to net in all five meetings with Conte-managed sides in the past.
It is at the other end of the field where United have a big question mark, however, with David de Gea picking up a hip injury last week to keep him out of the squad to face Sunderland and only on the bench against Anderlecht on Thursday.
It is likely to be between Pedro and Willian for a starting role on the right of the three-man attack line, while Cesc Fabregas is battling with Nemanja Matic for a deep defensive role alongside N’Golo Kante.
Kante is known more for his defensive attributes than attacking quality, but his two goals in two appearances against the Red Devils this term – his only goals since joining last summer – mark him out as one to watch.
Manchester United possible starting lineup:
De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Rojo, Blind; Fellaini, Herrera; Lingard, Pogba, Rashford; Ibrahimovic
Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Matic, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Costa, Hazard
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