CHELSEA v MAN UNITED, 8PM MON, SKY SPORTS
With all eyes on Manchester City following the news the reigning Premier League champions are to be banned from UEFA competitions for two seasons due to “serious breaches of financial fair play regulations” attention will return to on field matters and the battle for a top four finish on Monday night as Chelsea and Manchester United do battle in front of the Sky cameras at Stamford Bridge.
Just a few weeks ago the Blues look a certainty to qualify for the Champions League in what is Frank Lampard’s first season in charge of the Londonders but a run of three without a win in the league has opened the door for Tottenham Hotspur and depending on Monday’s result perhaps Manchester United as well.
Sheffield United, Wolves and perhaps even Everton are still in the hunt while the likes of Burnley, Newcastle and Everton are only 10 points outside the top four in what is a ridiculously congested Premier League table.
United badly need the mid-season break with the Red Devils stuttering with no wins in their last three Premier League games either meaning this is a chance for both sides to reignite their campaigns on Monday night.
The big story at Old Trafford in recent weeks has been the totally unexpected arrival of ex-Watford striker Odion Ighalo from the Chinese Super League in an attempt to add some goals to a United team that has lacked a creative spark of late.
A dour scoreless draw with Wolves before the break highlighted United’s need for some fresh ideas and while many will have question marks over the arrival of a 31-year-old from outside of Europe’s top leagues Ighalo was a very popular figure at Vicarge Road before his big money move.
If United are getting the player who scored 15 goals in 37 appearances in 2015-16 then this could be a clever piece of business by Ole Gunnar Solskjær but should the Nigerian flop at Old Trafford expect one almighty backlash against Ed Woodward and probably the Norwegian boss too.
As mentioned both sides arrive here bang out of form and the same can be said when you examine Chelsea’s home form and United away record this term with the Blues winning just five times at Stamford Bridge and Monday’s visitors claiming just three wins on the road.
The loss of Marcus Rashford really couldn’t have come at a worse time for United as it has coincided with Chelsea’s loss of form and as a result it’s difficult to see how much pressure the Red Devils can assert on the top four between now and the end of the season, unless Ighalo can hit the ground running that is.
Given Chelsea had their transfer ban lifted before Christmas it is a surprise Frank Lampard didn’t opt to bring in some more experienced types last month and he has got to be worried at the resurgence of Tottenham in recent weeks under ex-Blues boss Jose Mourinho.
It’s clear the race for Champions League qualification is going to go right down to the wire and this looks like being an equally tight contest between the multi-time Premier League winners.
PREDICTION: DRAW (13/5)
Under 2.5 goals (10/11)