This game takes on a fascinating dimension due to each side’s respective form.
Chelsea have been at sixes and sevens since suffering their first defeat of the season against Spurs in November. Since that game, Maurizio Sarri’s men have lost seven of their last 21 games, as well as drawing on three occasions.
Most galling have been the recent heavy defeats to Bournemouth (4-0) and Manchester City (6-0).
In between those season-threatening losses was a 5-0 win over Huddersfield. To emphasise the Jeckyll and Hyde quality of Chelsea in the last few weeks, I’ll point to the fact that the Blues have not put back-to-back wins (in 90 mins) together since beating Crystal Palace and Watford in December.
Europa League success (2-1 v Malmo) on Thursday may not have a material effect, but it could serve to diffuse growing discontent.
Whichever Chelsea side turns up on Monday evening at Stamford Bridge, it promises to be compelling viewing.
Manchester United’s season looked cooked after Liverpool’s 3-1 dismantling of José Mourinho’s team. What followed was a startling improvement that led United to the top four in the league and to a sense of optimism that they could more than trouble PSG in the Champions League.
Ultimately that sense of optimism was entirely misplaced as Mourinho’s replacement Ole Gunnar Solskjaer fell to his first defeat as United’s manager.
Not so much the defeat, but the comprehensive nature of it has placed a question mark over the ‘Solskjaer revolution’.
Their bid to reclaim that momentum sees them travel to Stamford Bridge for a match that could have a fundamental effect on the losing team’s campaign.
Chelsea’s inadequacies appear on the surface to be related to their attacking performance.
A closer look reveals a repeated failure to build their attacking threat through a committed approach to their manager’s plan.
A Maurizio Sarri team needs to play with an intensity that requires complete commitment. Whether or not it’s entirely true, this Chelsea team have long had a reputation for downing tools.
When the Blues do move the ball, and more importantly when they move off the ball, they’re a handful for any side.
That passing and movement in between the lines with no more than two touches per player is penetrative. Chelsea’s leading players too often sit on the ball with an intention of delivering the decisive moment themselves.
As has been well documented, and as was evidenced against PSG, United’s defence is there to be got at.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 16, 2019
Short of some of their best attacking talent with injuries to Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingaard, Solskjaer’s side look less threatening to say the least.
A fascinating battle in midfield is in the offing between these two sides. They are stylistically opposed to each other almost fundamentally.
There’s a rich seam of narrative as well. There’s Jorginho’s struggles to win over fans at Stamford Bridge, the ex-blue Nemanja Matic anchoring United’s midfield, and of course the mercurial Paul Pogba who still has the capacity to vanish when he’s needed most.
Historically, things are stacked in Chelsea’s favour. They’re undefeated in five FA Cup games against United, winning four, including last year’s final. United must go back to 1999 for their last FA Cup win in this tie.
The head to head record in general is even. Two wins each from the last five meetings in all competitions and one draw in October earlier this season.
If Chelsea can find a way to play the game on their terms, then they look a good bet. For my money, I think United can win games with or without the ball, their price in the match bet sways me towards the away side.
There’s a doubt over Ruben Loftus-Cheek, he is carrying a back issue. While Danny Drinkwater is nursing an achilles complaint. Sarri has voiced confidence over the availability of Loftus-Cheek in advance of this game.
United will be without Martial and Lingaard for at least three weeks after respective muscle injuries. Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes will be drafted into the first team and Solskjaer has hinted one or both may get game time. Chris Smalling is available once again after recovering from a foot injury.
Chelsea are available at EVS in the match bet, United are 13/5, and the 90 minute draw is 13/5.
To my mind this is a 50-50 game. On that basis, I see the value being with United for this game.
Man Utd to win at 13/5
As a secondary bet, I would recommend Both Teams to Score at 7/10