Chelsea’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace at the start of the month has not been the start of a dramatic collapse that their rivals had been hoping for. Antonio Conte’s men have rebounded with back-to-back wins over Manchester City and Bournemouth to maintain a healthy seven-point cushion at the top of the table, and with just seven rounds of fixtures to go it would be a huge shock if the Premier League trophy does not head to Stamford Bridge in May.
Next up for them is a trip to face former boss Jose Mourinho on Sunday and Chelsea supporters would love nothing more than to see their side complete a hat-trick of wins over the man who declared himself the best manager in the club’s history.
“Until the moment they have a manager that wins four Premier Leagues for them, I'm the number one,” he told reporters after Chelsea beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup last month. “Until then, Judas is number one.”
‘Judas’ may be number one after bringing four Premier League titles to Stamford Bridge, but there will be no title success in his debut season with United. The Portuguese has spent vast sums of cash to overhaul the squad over the past 12 months but he still has a lot of work to do because it appears as though a top-four finish will evade them this season. The biggest reason… draws, especially at home.
Manchester United are the Premier League’s draw specialists – alongside Middlesbrough – having shared the spoils on 12 occasions this season, but the most disappointing thing about that statistic is the fact nine of them have occurred at Old Trafford.
Once an absolute fortress that teams feared visiting, ‘The Theatre of Dreams’ has been a place of giving this season with nine teams leaving with a point and one leaving with all three. This poor home record has frustrated United supporters all season long and they know that if their side do not improve their home form next season, their wait for a Champions League return could go on even longer.
But looking to the more immediate future, they would probably accept a draw against Chelsea on Sunday because they have seen their side lose twice to the Blues already this season. Chelsea thrashed them 4-0 in the Premier League last October and beat them 1-0 in the FA Cup last month, and you have to go back to October 2012 for the last time United got the better of the Blues. Four of the last five meetings at Old Trafford have ended in draws and that should happen again here.
I also expect it to be a low-scoring goal. Eight of the last 10 games between Manchester United and Chelsea have produced two goals or less, while United’s record this season is littered with low-scoring matches because they have the second best goals against record in the Premier League and out of the top six that have scored the least goals by some distance. Chelsea have only conceded one more than United so neither side gives up a lot of goals, and that means the goals will not flow here.