Five key talking points ahead of Chelsea v Manchester United

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Sunday's fixture between Chelsea and Manchester United sees two of the Premier League's true heavyweights come together in a fixture that has so many times been crucial in deciding who will reign supreme as champions, come the end of the season.

Heading into this weekend's clash however, things are a little different.

United's inconsistency and tedious style of play has seen them fall five points adrift of that all important fourth Champions League spot, whilst Chelsea's spectacular fall from grace has shown little signs of reversing, with last year's champions still languishing in 13th.


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Despite their positions and relative fortunes, this fixture remains one of the biggest of the season, both to the players as well as the fans. Ahead of Sunday's encounter, we look at five key talking points that could be crucial in determining who will emerge as the victor.

Rooney's Renaissance

Despite starting the season as Manchester United's main man up front, both Wayne Rooney's, and United's, struggles in front of goal had been much publicised and debated in the media.

With many calling for Rooney to be dropped and for Anthony Martial to be moved into a more central role, the pressure was certainly mounting on Rooney to recapture his form of years gone by.

Since the turn of the year however, Rooney has looked a man reborn. With seven goals in his last seven appearances, the captain has been a key part in United's recent resurgence, and their return to a more attacking style of play.

Looking sharper, faster, and more willing to make the runs up front that his team have so desperately needed this season, Rooney has begun to look more like the combative, all-action striker we have become accustomed to seeing leading the line for United.

If United are to triumph at Stamford Bridge on Sunday night, Rooney will have to be at his best once more, with Chelsea's defence certain to present more of a challenge than United's previous two opponents (Derby and Stoke) have been able to.

Dirty Diego or Charismatic Costa

Diego Costa was one of the key components of the Chelsea team that waltzed to the Premier League title last season, under former manager Jose Mourinho.

After hitting the ground running, and making an amazing start to life in the Premier League, the controversial striker has since found things a lot more difficult, reportedly falling out with both his teammates and former manager Mourinho.

Despite experiencing something of a return to form under new manager Guus Hiddink, recent reports have linked Costa with a return to former club Atletico Madrid, with Chelsea said to have had enough of his controversial performances and disciplinary issues.

If the Diego Costa of last season turns up on Sunday, then Chelsea will have a very real chance of taking all three points. If however, Costa is once again incapable of controlling his emotions and lets the magnitude of the occasion get to him, then United will be sure to capitalise.

The Mata/Martial Effect

With United's recent improved performances, have also come improved performances from two of the clubs biggest and most expensive names - Juan Mata and Anthony Martial.

The two were in blistering form against both Derby and Stoke, with both being heavily involved in both scoring and creating all three goals against the latter.

Whilst the ability of both is undoubtedly there for all to see, both have seldom been allowed to fully utilise their creativity this term - with manager Louis van Gaal favouring a more patient and pragmatic approach.

If Van Gaal is again to opt for a more expansive and free flowing approach against Chelsea on Sunday, then the passing prowess and explosive speed of Martial will be two key factors in determining whether or not United will be able to come away from the game with all three points.

Chelsea's Hazard Warning

What has happened to Eden Hazard this season at Chelsea?

Hazard was a man who, last season could do no wrong. His every touch of the ball had Chelsea fans drooling over his majestic dribbling style and the ease with which he would glide past opposing defenders before coolly slotting the ball past some of the world's best goalkeepers.

This term however, Hazard seems a man who can do no right. After being linked to the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona just last summer, Hazard has since endured a 2,358 minute long run without scoring, a run that ended just last week when the Belgian scored a penalty in Chelsea's 5-1 rout of Milton Keynes Dons.

Many Chelsea fans are now hoping that, after breaking his duck and with new manager Guus Hiddink in charge, Hazard can kick on and try to recapture some of his breathtaking form from last season.

If this is the start of Hazard's recovery, then his performance on Sunday could be crucial in deciding who will come out of the encounter as winners, as well as playing a major part in determining how the rest of Chelsea's season is going to unfold.

A Tale of Two Goalkeepers

Irrespective of their form and the performances of the rest of the players in front of them over this past year, no one can deny that in David de Gea and Thibaut Courtois, Manchester United and Chelsea have two of the world's very best 'keepers.

Despite missing most of this season due to a leg injury which required surgery, Courtois has recently returned to the starting line-up for Chelsea and has helped them keep consecutive clean sheets in their previous two league games, one of which was against bitter rivals Arsenal.

Courtois' performances since returning from injury have also played a key part in maintaining Chelsea's impressive unbeaten record under new manager Guus Hiddink, a run which now stretches to eight Premier League games under the Dutchman.

David de Gea's form for Manchester United this term has been nothing short of magical, with the Spanish 'keeper time and time again rescuing points for United in games in which they have found themselves under the cosh.

After failing in his bid to move to Spanish giants Real Madrid in the summer, many fans feared De Gea would lack the motivation and desire he showed for United last term. However, after a string of impressive performances and breathtaking saves ever since his return to the starting line-up, such fears have been firmly put to bed.

In a game which many are predicting will be a cagey and close-fought affair, the form of both young 'keepers and their ability to deny the opposition may just be the most important factor in deciding whether Chelsea will be able to continue their surge up the table, or whether United will continue to keep their chase for Champions League football alive.

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Diego Costa
Manchester United
Thibaut Courtois
Eden Hazard
David De Gea
Louis van Gaal
Wayne Rooney

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