Chelsea welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge for Wednesday’s League Cup fourth round tie. The Blues have been in sparkling form since the backend of September and they have registered seven victories on the bounce. Owing to this, the west London side have propelled themselves into the top four and they are holding a comfortable four-point advantage over fifth-placed Arsenal.
United, on the other hand, have recently registered back-to-back wins in all competitions but they are still playing catch up in terms of the Premier League where they are already seven points behind the Champions League positions. They secured a comfortable 4-0 triumph over Chelsea in the curtain-raiser but can expect a tougher challenge this time around with the Blues likely to be determined to avenge the result in front of their home supporters.
*Combined starting XI – Predicted:
United’s David de Gea has remained one of the Premier League’s most consistent goalkeepers but over the past 12 months, he has made unforced mistakes which have cost the team dearly. In comparison, Spanish teammate and Chelsea ace Kepa Arrizabalaga has been more assured between the sticks and he gets our nod for the starting XI based on the performances in the current calendar year.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has made a huge impact on the right side of the United defence and he has averaged more than five tackles per game in the top-flight. In comparison, Cesar Azpilicueta has managed just 2.5 tackles on average but the Spaniard does offer more on the attacking point of view. Wan-Bissaka has made movements into the opposition half but his crossing has been pretty average as he has struggled to beat the first man. Hence, Azpilicueta gets our nod.
At the heart of the backline, Harry Maguire definitely takes one of the positions, given his presence has improved the Red Devils defensive record. The England international has proved a big-game player and has come up with crucial performances against Chelsea and Liverpool this season. He made his debut in the 4-0 triumph over the Blues, where he was adjudged the man of the match.
Alongside Maguire, Fikayo Tomori should make the XI. The England youth international was initially regarded as a back-up option following the departure of David Luiz to Arsenal. However, he has not only earned a starting spot but also become an undisputed starter under Frank Lampard. The youngster has impressed with the timing of his challenges and recently made a last-ditch tackle to deny Ashley Barnes a clear shot on goal.
On the left side of the defence, Marcos Alonso remains a clear choice. The Spaniard does have the vulnerability when it comes to the defensive side of his game but he has shown an improvement in the same regard this season. The former Fiorentina man has got a regular run of games with Emerson’s fitness concerns and he poses an attacking threat with the likes of Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi to link up with him on the left flank.
Scott McTominay have been ever-present for the Red Devils in the Premier League and he has made the opportunities count. The Scotland international has always impressed with his workrate but he has brought a different dimension to his game with the ability to score goals this season. The United graduate has preferred to carry the ball forward in certain situations and the Blues can’t afford to offer him with a sight of goal, particularly after his stellar strike against Arsenal last month.
Alongside him, Jorginho gets our pick. The Brazil international was constantly put to blame for the Blues’ poor performances last season, given he was playing in the holding midfield role with N’Golo Kante sacrificed to play in an advanced position. The duties have remained the same under Lampard but the Italian has grown into a more confident player and has been hailed for his impressive distribution to the forwards this season.
Marcus Rashford has been inconsistent with his performances this campaign but he nonetheless gets the pick ahead of Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi, given his ability to influence the proceedings in the big games. He has recently found form with goals in successive games and one of those came against league leaders Liverpool, where United almost registered a surprise victory.
Elsewhere, Mason Mount and Daniel James are definite choices. Mount has been praised on a constant basis for his eagerness to make a difference in the final third. He has already bagged four goals and an assist in his breakthrough season for the Blues. James, meanwhile, has proved another shrewd summer signing for United and he remains a regular threat to the opposition defence with his high pressing and pace on the counter-attack. He has registered three goals and two assists in all competitions.
Upfront, there are no question marks over Tammy Abraham’s selection. The Blues graduate has already amassed nine goals in all competitions and he holds the edge over Anthony Martial, who has missed nearly seven weeks of action through injury this season. Abraham has not scored since the previous international break and he will be keen on putting up a strong display against United.
*Antonio Rudiger, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba have been excluded due to their respective fitness concerns.