Chelsea v Manchester United
Barclays Premier League
Sunday, February 5 2012. Kick-off: 16:00
Manchester United will welcome back three key players for their crucial encounter with Chelsea on Sunday, with Wayne Rooney, Nani and Ashley Young all in contention for a starting spot after overcoming injury.
Tom Cleverly will travel with the squad but is unlikely to feature while Anders Lindegaard has been ruled out for at least four weeks with an ankle injury, meaning David De Gea should start.
Chelsea will be without captain John Terry, who continues to struggle with a knee problem, while Frank Lampard looks to have overcome a calf complaint, but Ashley Cole is suspended and Ramires (knee) and John Obi Mikel (hamstring) are out.
Sturridge: United win will kick-start season
Daniel Sturridge has urged his team-mates to make Chelsea’s encounter against Manchester United the game in which they lay down a marker for the remainder of the season.
Chelsea have struggled for consistency so far this season, and have only picked up two wins in their last eight games, dragging them backwards into a scrap for the fourth and final Champions League qualification spot via the league.
The Blues have been able to cling on to fourth despite back to back draws against Premier League new-boys Norwich and Swansea in recent weeks, and now Sturridge believes they can send a clear message to their rivals that they mean business with a win over United on Sunday.
"We are a big club, and I don't think anybody should forget that," he told Chelsea’s official website. "Just because we have had a bit of a bad spell and we haven't been winning as frequently as we have in the past, I think people are doubting the credibility of Chelsea which they should never do.
"We're a great club, and we are going to go out there on Sunday and prove to everybody that we can still compete with the likes of Manchester United.
"We've already shown by beating Manchester City that we can still mix it with the top two and we will be going out there on Sunday to show what we're about."
Sturridge has enjoyed his breakthrough season at Stamford Bridge having spent the latter part of last season on loan with Bolton, and has found the back of the net ten times this season to make him Chelsea’s leading scorer behind Frank Lampard.
However the goals have dried up somewhat for the former Manchester City forward who has not found the back of the net since December, largely thanks to Blues boss Andre Villas-Boas deploying him in an unfamiliar wide position.
“I can't score in every game because it's difficult from that position, but hopefully I can carry on producing my fair share of goals and keep getting assists as well," he commented.
"It's good that I'm scoring goals, that's what I love doing, I love scoring goals that help the team win games and that's what I'll be striving to do, I want to score as many as I can in order to help us climb the table."