Man United Host Chelsea in ‘Top-four Final’


Demola Ojo

Two of the most successful teams in the Premier League era, Manchester United and Chelsea, go head-to-head today at Old Trafford in the race for fourth place. With two games to play after today, the stakes are high for fourth-placed Chelsea and their hosts who lie three points behind in sixth.

A draw does neither of these sides any good. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side must win to keep alive any realistic hopes of Champions League football next season, while Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea need victory to fend off city rivals Arsenal, who are close behind in the race for fourth.

Neither side can afford to slip up as Solskjaer desperately tries to reverse United’s fortunes, and Sarri looks to get his side back into the Champions League.

. If Chelsea finish outside the top four, they will have to win the Europa League to qualify for the Champions League.

However, Chelsea are yet to win a single point away at a ‘top six’ club this season. They have lost four games, conceding 13 goals and scoring only one, and face a United side hurting from a 2-0 midweek humbling at the hands of Manchester City.

“We have two very important targets at the end of our season,” said Sarri. “The first is the top four and the second is to get to the final of the Europa League.

“For the first target, this match is more than important for us and for our opponents. So we will try to win, of course, but we need not to lose. It’s a very difficult match for both I think.”

Manchester United have not been good enough over the past five seasons, says manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and face a “great challenge” to compete at the top again.

The end of Solskjaer’s honeymoon period has now seen seven defeats from the last nine matches, but he believes the results are a reflection of United’s overall level rather than a sudden dip.

“The total points is 70 in average for the last five seasons, we’re now on 64, so that’s where we’re at, that is the reality that we are in now, where we’ve been in the last five seasons and that’s not good enough,” he said.

“That’s not down to the last six, seven or eight games, that’s where we are at the moment and we have a great challenge ahead of us to get us up challenging again.”

United have won their last two Premier League home games against Chelsea – they’ve not beaten the Blues in three top-flight games in a row at Old Trafford since January 1957. However, Chelsea have won more Premier League games against United than any other side have in the competition (18).

Chelsea’s six Premier League wins at Old Trafford have come under six different managers (Glenn Hoddle, Ruud Gullit, Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Rafael Benitez), with five of those victories being the manager’s first such game at the ground with the Blues.

Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante has scored nine goals in all competitions in his four seasons in England, with Manchester United the only side he’s scored more than once against (2). remains a doubt for today’s game due to a rib injury suffered in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Burnley, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is a long-term absentee after Achilles surgery.

Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 10 of Chelsea’s 23 Premier League away league goals this season (5 goals, 5 assists), double that of any other player at the club (Ross Barkley 5).

Anthony Martial scored twice for United in the reverse fixture against Chelsea this season. The only United players to score home and away Premier League goals against the Blues in the same season are Wayne Rooney in 2011-12 and Eric Cantona in 1992-93.

Ander Herrera could return for Manchester United today. The midfielder has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury but is back in training, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer confirmed goalkeeper David de Gea will keep his place despite poor recent form.

Midfielder Scott McTominay missed Wednesday’s derby defeat after failing a fitness test and is again a doubt along with defender Phil Jones, who hobbled off against Everton last weekend.

Antonio Rudiger should shake off his knee injury in time for Chelsea. The Germany defender hobbled out of the Blues’ 2-0 league loss at Liverpool but is closing in on full fitness.