Chelsea host Manchester United in the fifth round of this season’s FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Monday evening.
A place in the quarter-finals of the old club cup competition is at stake, where Watford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Millwall, Manchester City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace and Swansea City have already booked their places.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was handed a reality check last Tuesday when his Red Devils went down 2-0 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League – the caretaker manager’s first defeat since taking up the role in mid-December.
48 hours later Chelsea were 2-1 winners at Malmo in their Europa League tie. Maurizio Sarri played a mixture of first team players and backups as the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Jorginho and Pedro all started in Sweden.
Chelsea had an 11-point lead over Manchester United in the Premier League before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the reins at Old Trafford. Nine games later and United are now a point above following their 3-0 thrashing of Fulham last weekend followed up by Chelsea being hammered 0-6 at Manchester City last Sunday.
The manner of the defeat saw Maurizio Sarri’s odds drop significantly and become the favourite to lose his job next. Indeed, the Italian may be relying on some silverware in the FA Cup or Europa League to save his job, and even that may not be enough.
The Blues are the bookmakers’ favourites despite United’s caretaker manager not losing a game domestically. The record champions of England have already won at Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in the new year, so don’t put it past them progressing on Monday night.
However, the visitors have been hit with two major injuries with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard both ruled out after coming off at half-time midweek. Centre-back Phil Jones hasn’t travelled to the capital either.
Sarri has it good on the injury front with no first team players currently sidelined. Expect the Italian manager to field his strongest side this evening because this game means a lot to him.
Whereas his opposite number may stick with cup goalkeeper Sergio Romero, though David de Gea has travelled. With Martial and Lingard injured, Solskjaer could give starts to Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata – neither player bad to have in reserve, though they would change United’s style of play.
With Romelu Lukaku expected to be named in the starting lineup, Marcus Rashford could be pushed out to the left wing where he played a lot under Jose Mourinho. Teenager Tahith Chong is an option to play out on the right.
We’re surprised that Chelsea are the favourites in this one given the domestic form of both sides. Their odds are as short as 2.00 with Betfair. We think Manchester United will progress from this one which gives you two options to choose from as a bet. Either even money on laying Chelsea, or 4.0 to back United in 90 minutes.
Should Manchester United take the lead before full-time then there’s always the option to cash in on a sure bet as their odds would drop substantially. Alternatively, you may just want to let it run until full-time.
Prediction: Chelsea 0-2 Manchester United