Should strikerless Chelsea copy Barcelona and Spain for Manchester United test?

Cesc Fabregas Spain

Chelsea should play with Cesc Fabregas as a false-nine when they face Manchester United in the Premier League.

The Blues travel to Old Trafford with first-choice striker Diego Costa out of action, and second-choice Loic Remy racing back to fitness having pulled his groin in the process of scoring the opening goal in Tuesday evening’s 6-0 thrashing of Champions League opponents Maribor.

Didier Drogba came on for the Frenchman, and netted the first goal since his return to Stamford Bridge, although he once again appeared out-of-sorts during his long spell on the pitch - something that has characterised every appearance the Ivorian has made this season.

He looks likely to lead the line on Sunday, with Chelsea looking to extend their unbeaten run to nine Premier League games, and potentially increase their lead at the top of the Premier League table to eight points over Manchester City.

However, head coach Jose Mourinho should take advice from his former rivals Barcelona - and make Cesc Fabregas lead the attack.

Mourinho played the 4-6–0 last season at Old Trafford, and he came under criticism when his decision to not play a recognisable striker - Andre Schurrle led the line that day - resulted in a boring, scoreless display.

Barcelona and Spain have used the style to the most effect, with Fabregas often fulfilling the role under Pep Guardiola, allowing Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Lionel Messi to drop any defensive duties whilst attacking from the wings.

He also famously started the Euro 2012 final in the same position, setting up the opening goal playing as a traditional centre forward, despite his prominent midfield traits.

Whilst Fabregas would have looked out of place as a number nine for Chelsea in recent seasons, the more fluid play the Blues have acted out this season plays into his hands, and his goal against Crystal Palace - the first he has netted in the Premier League for the West London club - would not have looked out of place if he were wearing a Barcelona shirt. His ability to create attacking moves would not be diminished from further up the pitch, and it also allows the 27-year-old to finish off moves with the help of Eden Hazard and Willian - who would likely feature either side of the Spaniard.

Moving Fabregas further up the pitch also allows Mourinho to shore up the midfield against the attacking talents that the Red Devils possess - with Oscar able to drop deeper.

The Brazilian would play alongside the imperious Nemanja Matic, leaving Mourinho free to call upon Ramires in the third midfield position, adding his pace and counter attacking ability to provide a different form of attacking outlet if needed.

Whilst the loss of a consistent goalscorer could hurt Chelsea at the weekend, the ability to deploy Cesc Fabregas up front negates the need to play the still-dissappointing Drogba, and it increases the bodies in the midfield to prevent United’s incredible attacking threats from playing. Mourinho may have come under criticism for attempting a similar style last season, his team this campaign are much more suited to it - and they could excel when faced with the task at Old Trafford.

Register for CHELSEA team updates

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch