The matchweek nine of English Premier League will feature the highly-anticipated clash between two of the most dominant England teams of the modern-era.
Manchester United and Chelsea will lock horns at the Stamford Bridge on Sunday in what should be a tie that will have a massive effect on the destinies of the two teams this season.
The Red Devils had made a mixed start to the season. A porous defence and a lacklustre midfield have restricted the team’s displays over the first eight games, yet, the Red Devils have squeezed in narrow wins to sit four points behind Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea team at the top of the table.
Shinji Kagawa is likely to miss the clash due to a knee injury that Japanese playmaker suffered during the club’s midweek Champions League win over Braga.
Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones are long-term absentees, but Englishmen Ashley Young and Chris Smalling are available for the match.
Although Smalling is unlikely to see any playing time against Chelsea, Sir Alex could hand Young a surprise start against the European champions.
Goalkeeper Andres Lindegaard is also ruled out due to a thumb injury.
With Lindegaard injured, there is no doubt that David De Gea will be deployed as the ‘keeper.
Rafael Da Silva is a shoo-in at the right back position, although the Brazilian’s defensive frailties could be thoroughly exploited by the mercurial Eden Hazard.
Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand were rested against Braga, but should return to the starting eleven and Jonny Evans will complete the Red Devil’s backline.
The biggest question will be regarding the team’s midfield. With the absence of Kagawa, Ferguson is unlikely to play his ‘diamond midfield’ formation, and instead use a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Wayne Rooney in the No 10 role.
Michael Carrick is a shoo-in for the deep-lying midfield role and Tom Cleverley will probably partner his fellow countryman in the middle of the park.
Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young should take up the wings. Ryan Giggs has looked way out of sorts this season and Fergie could take a massive risk if he decided to play the inconsistent Nani. The Portuguese is an enigma on the football pitch who either puts in a phenomenal display for the team or plays as an isolated and frustrated figure on the wings.
Paul Scholes too is likely to miss out on a starting berth as the 37-year-old’s lack of pace could by slaughtered by Mata and Hazard.
Ferguson is likely to have a selection dilemma upfront due to Javier Hernandez’s wonderful brace on Tuesday night. However, I personally see both, the Mexican and Danny Welbeck being left out on the bench, with Robin van Persie spearheading the attack as the lone striker.
Key Player: Robin van Persie
The most important player for United could be their in-form striker Robin van Persie. The Dutchman has already netted in six goals this season and will be keen to continue his goal-scoring form against his former London rivals.
With John Terry serving his ban, van Persie will have relatively less difficulties in exploiting the Blues’ defence.
United themselves have a creaking defence and van Persie’s goals will be pivotal in deciding the clash.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United