The biggest clash of this weekend’s Premier League fixtures comes at Stamford Bridge as Jose Mourinho tries to inflict another defeat over David Moyes’ Manchester United.
This is a huge game for both sides but more so United because defeat would push the Premier League champions further back in the title race, making the top four look like an uphill challenge over the second half of the season.
There are world class players on either side and there is plenty of buzz as Mourinho could hand a second debut to Nemanja Matic while Moyes debates whether to risk a partially fit Wayne Rooney.
Here are the key battles to keep an eye on.
Petr Cech v David De Gea
While these two won’t physically be in competition, it’s a crucial battle over the 90 minutes.
Whichever goalkeeper comes out of this game having put in the most impressive performance is likely to be on the winning side. They are both capable of world class saves, which will keep their teams in the contest.
Ashley Cole v Antonio Valencia
Valencia will definitely be looking to exploit Cole on the counter attack and make the most of space when the Chelsea left-back gets forward.
The job for Cole is to ensure that he’s not caught high up the pitch because while he’s still very quick, he may struggle to chase down a full speed Valencia who can hurt Chelsea if he’s not closed down.
Nemanja Matic v Danny Welbeck
I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that Mourinho will hand a starting place to Matic.
The reason a battle against Welbeck is key and a good one to watch is because the United man moves around and drifts a lot better than people give him credit for. He’ll drift to both the left and right side of the attack, coming a little deeper at times and Matic has to watch for his movement.
Oscar v Michael Carrick
Chelsea’s Brazilian is very good at operating in the gap between the opposition’s midfield and defence.
Carrick won’t go up against him physically, but he’s someone that United expect to close down the space and cut off the angles, which makes it more difficult for players of Oscar’s type to get on the ball and be influential.
Fernando Torres v Nemanja Vidic
Torres is likely to start this game and he’ll try and give himself an advantage by drifting onto the slower centre back.
The key for Vidic is to stay alert and to try and give himself the best chance of dealing with Torres’ movement across the back four. Vidic also needs to be alert to the fact that Torres will switch defenders but he shouldn’t have a problem being loud as he passes him on.
image: © Ben Sutherland