Sunday sees the highly anticipated return of Jose Mourinho to Stamford Bridge for the first time since he was axed last December.
With Mourinho moving on to Chelsea’s Premier League rivals Manchester United and Antonio Conte doing a good job of picking up the pieces at Stamford Bridge, the clash between the Blues and the Red Devils this weekend will be an intriguing affair.
Mourinho’s return has added spice to an already huge game with both sides looking to cement their place in the top four as well as keep up with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham.
Liverpool were on the end of a Mourinho defensive masterclass on Monday night as United went to Anfield and frustrated, outworked and and out smarted the home side. If there is one club that will know about the Mourinho defensive masterclass, it is Chelsea.
Five things to look out for…
1.Will United come and open up at Stamford Bridge?
Much has been made about the way Manchester United played on Monday night with their defensive approach, despite United being in control for large proportions of the game their lack of ambition to attack Liverpool was clear to see with Mourinho setting his side up to not lose the game.
Sunday will be a different story, Chelsea are in a far different place compared to Liverpool, you can see Klopp has his side playing the way he wants them to play while Chelsea manager Antonio Conte is still implementing his ideas, and Jose will want to take advantage of that.
United find themselves five points off top of the table City and defeat could leave them eight points depending on results. After losing to City and a drab draw at Anfield, Mourinho needs a result and doing it at Stamford Bridge could be the place to make a statement.
2. Diego Costa v Eric Bailly
He’s had a fantastic start to life in England but Eric Bailly could be in for the toughest test so far as he comes up against Premier League’s top goalscorer and menace Diego Costa.
Costa has been in fine form this season after a campaign to forget last year where he failed to replicate the form of his debut season where he played a major part in Chelsea’s title win. Now he seems to be back to his best and firing on all cylinders and Sunday will be another test.
The Ivorian has been assured and composed so far although coming up against a character like Costa will show how far he has come in his short United career.
3. Should John Terry return?
The switch from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 has seen a different Chelsea after their two defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, Conte knew something had to change and the three at the back has seen a more composed side who look far more comfortable in the new formation.
However the change to three at the back occurred in the absence of captain John Terry, with the side keeping two clean sheets since.
But now back fit does he return? It would be hard to drop any one of David Luiz, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, so perhaps it would be best to avoid shoehorning him in now, and wait until the EFL fourth round tie at West Ham on Wednesday night?
4. Will Mourinho have a plan for Hazard?
Whilst he isn’t producing consistent performances every week, we are starting to gradually see the Eden Hazard of old.
The Belgian was reported to be one of the players who fell out with Mourinho last season so he could be extra motivated to get one over his former manager? Despite his patchy form, the United manager will be well aware of the ability of Hazard.
Mourinho once famously stated the Chelsea man could be on the same level as Messi and Ronaldo, before Hazard going on to have a terrible season. But if he can play anywhere near his best, it will be a long afternoon for the United backline. We saw on Monday how United nullified Liverpool’s attack by staying compact in numbers and allowing limited space, could he do something similar to stop Chelsea’s main man.
5. Can Pogba be the main man in a big game?
For £89m you would expect Pogba to be making the headlines every week however it’s been far from that so far. The Frenchman has shown glimpses, however everyone has been waiting for Pogba to dominate a game and a big one at that. Sunday could be his chance to do so, he’s faded in and out of games so far and did so on Monday night, although against Fenerbahce he hit two as United romped to a 4-1 win, if he can start bringing big game performances to the side his price tag will start to be justified.