If you looked at the fixture list before the start of the season and saw Chelsea vs. Manchester United in February your first thought would be ‘massive match in the title race.’
But the ‘massive match in the title race’ this weekend takes place at the Etihad where Manchester City take on Leicester City.
But we’re concentrating our focus on the match at Stamford Bridge on Sunday between the two giants of English football. The Blues need the points to continue their climb up the table. They’re unbeaten under caretaker manager Guus Hiddink but still sit in 13th position.
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United need the three points to keep their - very faint - title hopes alive. The Red Devils are fifth, five points behind Arsenal in fourth but ten points behind Leicester. If the title is an unrealistic aim, Louis van Gaal’s men will be desperate to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League.
Although they have experienced disappointing seasons to date, both squads still boast world-class talent. We have a look at the combined XI between the two teams.
GOALKEEPER: DAVID DE GEA
The Spanish international just about edges out Thibaut Courtois in this extremely tough decision. Courtois missed a large part of season through injury and his club has conceded 34 goals compared to United’s 21. De Gea is the reason why United still have a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
RIGHT-BACK: CESAR AZPILICUETA
Although he usually occupies the left-back position for Chelsea, Azpilicueta is equally comfortable at right-back. The 26-year-old has performed consistently this season despite Chelsea’s troubles and will give you a seven or eight out of ten every match.
CENTRE-BACK: CHRIS SMALLING
The England international has been impressive for Van Gaal’s side this campaign. He has established himself as a leader for the Red Devils and is surely nailed on to start for England in Euro 2016. A big positive in United’s unspectacular season so far.
CENTRE-BACK: JOHN TERRY
Terry can’t be kept out of the headlines at the moment. The Chelsea captain announced he would be leaving at the end of the season despite the club insisting no decision has been made regarding his contract. On the pitch though, the 35-year-old is performing as well as ever.
LEFT-BACK: LUKE SHAW
The 20-year-old suffered a horrific double leg fracture back in September and hasn’t played since but still makes it into our combined XI. Shaw made a brilliant start to the season and recently returned to Carrington to resume his recovery. Hopefully, he’ll be back rampaging up the left-wing soon enough.
CENTRAL-MIDFIELD: ANDER HERRERA
The Spaniard may prefer to play in a more advanced role but we feel the 26-year-old needed a place in the team. Herrera is loved by United fans and a lot of his work goes unnoticed, but not by us. However, the former Athletic Bilbao man has struggled to cement a regular starting position under Van Gaal.
CENTRAL MIDFIELD: CESC FABREGAS
It may just be a coincidence, but Fabregas’ performances have improved dramatically since the departure of Jose Mourinho. There is nobody better in the Premier League than the Spaniard when it comes to a little 20-yard ball behind the defence for a striker to run on to.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: WILLIAN
The Brazilian deserves massive credit for consistently producing decent performances despite Chelsea’s disastrous season. He’s managed eight goals in all competitions - the same amount as the previous two campaigns combined.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: WAYNE ROONEY
Last month, Rooney would have found it difficult to find his way into our combined XI. But seven goals in eight games since being dropped on Boxing Day has seen the 30-year-old creep into our team. He’s in his best form for many years so we just can’t leave him out.
ATTACKING MIDFIELDER: EDEN HAZARD
Hazard only scored his first goal of the season during last week’s FA Cup win against MK Dons but the Belgian is still world-class. He was by far the best player in the league last season and it won’t be long until he’s back to his very best.
STRIKER: ANTHONY MARTIAL
Martial edges out Diego Costa in the battle of the strikers. The 20-year-old has flourished in a central position recently and scored a brilliant goal in Tuesday’s victory over Stoke. He’s not the finished article just yet but you get the feeling that he’s only going to get better and better.