Manchester United’s top-four hopes could be over if the Red Devils lose to Chelsea at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Sunday.
United will enter the game three points adrift of Chelsea but with an inferior goal difference. There’s also a chance Arsenal, another rival for fourth place, will be further out of sight if the Gunners win away to Leicester City earlier in the day.
Chelsea and United will hope Arsenal’s miserable recent form, embodied by defeats to Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers, continues as the race to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League heats up.
The Blues need the help after being held to a 2-2 draw by Burnley at home on Monday. At least Chelsea took a point, though, which is more than United managed from defeats against Everton and Manchester City.
Date: Sunday, 28 April
Time: 4:30 p.m. BST/11:30 a.m. ET
TV Info: Sky Sports PL. NBCSN.
Live Stream: Sky Go. NBC Sports App. fuboTV.
United: 7-4. Chelsea: 9-5. Draw: 5-2
Losing 2-0 at home to Manchester City on Wednesday only underlined the problems in United’s squad.
Application and desire have been questioned, but the bigger challenge has been finding the right partnerships on the pitch.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs the best combination of midfielders to afford playmaker Paul Pogba greater freedom.
The Frenchman is a figure of controversy, but there is little doubting both his natural talent and his numbers this season:
Pogba has a range of passing most top midfielders on the continent likely envy. It would help if he had more consistent forwards to aim for.
Marcus Rashford hasn’t scored in his past four league outings, while Romelu Lukaku has appeared off the pace. Solskjaer may be wise to give ex-Arsenal man Alexis Sanchez an opportunity to redeem himself.
The Chilean has been a major disappointment since joining in January 2018. However, he still has the flair, vision and shooting power to overwhelm any defence when on form and in the mood.
A partnership between Pogba and Sanchez would torment a Chelsea back four battered by Burnley. Goals from Jeff Hendrick and Ashley Barnes were the result of the Clarets routinely finding joy, particularly when they isolated the mistake-prone David Luiz.
Things should be better if manager Maurizio Sarri is able to call on Antonio Rudiger. The Germany international is Chelsea’s most dominant centre-back.
What the Blues need is to keep the ball in midfield, a task made tougher if N’Golo Kante isn’t available. Instead, the onus is on Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic to furnish Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain with chances.
Chelsea have the players in the final third, particularly Hazard, who can pile more misery on United. However, it’s win or bust for Pogba and Co., so United are likely to take something from the game and keep their chances of Champions League qualification alive for at least another week