Before the season, a look at the schedule for the March 1 contest between Chelsea and Manchester United figured to have Premier League title implications.

However, when the two clubs clash on Tuesday evening, it will be Manchester United alone atop the standings while Chelsea struggles to avoid further embarrassments.

Despite an ill-advised elbow strike to Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy, forward Wayne Rooney finds himself in fine form lately for the Red Devils.

The England attacker avoided suspension today and will be in action against Chelsea when the two clubs meet at Stamford Bridge in the first meeting of the season.

In the last few weeks, Rooney has shown inspired play. His performance against Wigan proved he has good on-field chemistry with Javier Hernandez, having connected with the forward on several well-executed plays, including the second goal of the match.

Earlier in the month, Rooney scored a bicycle kick against Manchester City that will live forever in derby lore.

Indeed, Manchester United appear to be clicking on all cylinders lately, despite a forgettable performance in Marseille in the first leg of the Champions League last week, and it's mainly due to Rooney.

But while the Red Devils avoided losing their star attacker for pivotal upcoming matches, Chelsea is simply looking to avoid any more humiliating setbacks.

The latest involves Ashley Cole, who brought an air rifle to Chelsea's Cobham training ground and accidentally shot a 21-year-old work placement student with a lead pellet. Manager Carlo Ancelotti already denied disciplinary action against Cole.

On the field, Chelsea have been a major disappointment. The Blues have been eliminated from FA Cup competition, and are currently in fifth place in the Premier League standings.

Chelsea, however, have played one less game than fourth-place Tottenham, and two less than third-place Manchester City.

Striker Didier Drogba has been in poor form this season, partially due to illness, and hopes to start against Manchester United. New addition Fernando Torres has yet to score, and even admitted he won't be playing his best until he can build a better understanding with Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

There are rumors swirling now that Drogba may leave Chelsea at the end of the season.

There have been bright spots for the Blues despite the disappointing Premier League season. Chelsea can take solace in the fact that they seem poised to advance in Champions League competition after their last match - a 2-0 victory over FC Copenhagen in Denmark.

Defender Branislav Ivanovic has played excellent for a majority of the season, as has captain John Terry.

Despite Chelsea's ups and downs this season, a return to their form from earlier in the season is conceivable. The defending champions have had their successes against the Red Devils.

Manchester United have failed to score in five of their last seven games at Stamford Bridge, and only tallied two goals combined in the other two matches.

If there was ever a time to salvage the Premier League season, it would be with a home victory against rival Manchester United.