When these two met on the opening day of the season at Old Trafford Manchester United took the spoils in convincing fashion, but since then, both clubs’ seasons have gone in rather different directions.
It was a less than impressive start to the campaign and a miserable beginning to the Frank Lampard era at Chelsea with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Ole Gunnar Solksjear’s men, however, since then Chelsea have shown there is plenty to like about their new, youthful, side.
The Blues now head into this last-16 tie on a seven-game winning run in all competitions, one which began with a 7-1 demolition of Grimsby in the last round of this League Cup and continued with fine wins away at Ajax in the Champions League and Burnley in the Premier League.
Due to Chelsea’s lack of Chelsea’s transfer activity, Lampard has been forced to turn to his youngsters, a decision which has paid dividends with some decent results and some very impressive performances.
Chelsea now sit fourth in the table with 20 points, while also topping their Champions League group, and will now be setting their sights on the League Cup, a tournament they have traditionally taken seriously down the years.
As a result, it’s unlikely that we will see too many new faces at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday with those who have represented the club so effectively since that mauling in Manchester more than deserving their chance to shine once again.
Billy Gilmour and Marc Guehi started against Grimsby in the last round but aside from that it was still a very recognisable ream with the likes of Marcos Alonso, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Michy Batshuayi all included while hero of Turf Moor, Christian Pulisic, will no doubt be staking a claim for a place following his hat-trick on Saturday.
United, on the other hand, have endured a rather more troubling start to the campaign since that thrashing of Chelsea, suffering defeats to Crystal Palace, West Ham and Newcastle in a dismal run which saw them hovering just above the relegation places in the Premier League.
But after that alarming slump, United have rallied of late with a draw against Liverpool and two away wins – at Partizan Belgrade and Norwich City – in the space of a few days, but the Reds still find themselves seven points behind the Blues.
The return to the team of Anthony Martial appears to have made a big difference to United’s balance, while Marcus Rashford has responded in kind, linking up well with the Frenchman who now have a much more potent attacking threat – worth noting with Martial to score first and United to win after 90 minutes at 7.25.*
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer must be tempted to name a strong side and maintain the positive momentum of the past couple of weeks, but with a trip to Bournemouth to come on Saturday lunchtime it seems more likely that Rashford, Martial and a some of those involved at Norwich on Sunday will be left out.
Wednesday offers United the chance to complete a hat-trick of away wins within a week, but the Blues are full of confidence and will see this competition as the chance to land Lampard some early silverware.
Even so, they will also head into Wednesday’s heavyweight clash knowing they are unbeaten in their last four games against Chelsea in all competitions, including a win here in the FA Cup last season, so maybe it’s no surprise that this one is currently 4.85* to be a draw after 90 minutes.
*Odds subject to change
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