Sunday 12 March 2017

Match preview: Chelsea v United

United face the stiffest test so far in their FA Cup defence with a quarter-final trip to champions elect Chelsea.

For the third season in succession, the Reds have reached the last eight but - having seen off Championship opposition in every round so far - the draw handed the holders the toughest possible pairing. 

Antonio Conte’s side have proved an irresistible force this term to sweep all before them and power to a seemingly unassailable ten-point title lead. 

Led by star duo Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, the Blues have built an impressive home record, having lost only once on home turf all season - to Liverpool back in September.

Jose’s first return to his former stamping ground back in October ended in a chastening 4-0 reverse, the Reds last meaningful domestic defeat.

Once again, the boss’s return to his former employers will dominate the build-up to this mouthwatering tie, with Jose keen to set the record straight having fallen well short last time. 

Chelsea remain favourites to win the domestic double and United’s already difficult challenge is made harder by the enforced absence of top scorer Zlatan.

The Swede will serve the first of his three-game ban at the Bridge with Marcus Rashford his likely replacement up front.
Wayne Rooney and Luke Shaw both sat out the trip to Rostov and are pushing for inclusions, whilst Eric Bailly is available again. 

Chelsea’s surge to the top of the table has been aided by very few injury problems and the hosts are expected to again report a clean bill of health. 

Despite the Reds illustrious Cup history we’ve never successfully retained the trophy, but victory here would seal another trip to Wembley.

United have won four times at the national stadium in less than a year and - with Arsenal and City already through - the semi finals will be held on 22/23 April. 

This heavyweight contest could also be brushed with a touch of history.
There are no replays at this stage of the competition, which means the match will be played to a finish on the night - with extra-time and penalties if needed.

Also for the first time, the managers can make a fourth substitution during the match should an additional 30 minutes be required. 

Form guide: Chelsea D W D W W W United W W W W D D
Match odds: Chelsea 9/4 Draw 5/2 United 18/5
Referee: Michael Oliver 

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