A Chelsea team low on confidence prepare to host a resurgent Manchester United side in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday night.
Chelsea’s season has hit a new low point after two embarrassing defeats to Bournemouth and Manchester City in the Premier League, although they did regain some pride with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Malmo in the Europa League on Thursday night.
As for United, they suffered their first defeat under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on Tuesday night, having previously gone 11 games without defeat to start his managerial reign at Old Trafford, and will be keen to get back to winning ways and get his side into the last eight of the competition.
Here are three key battles which could decide the clash:
1. Eden Hazard vs. Ashley Young
Eden Hazard has established himself as one of the best players in world football in recent seasons, and is Chelsea’s best player whenever he graces the pitch. The Blues have been reliant on the Belgian this season but some inconsistency has started to creep in on Hazard’s part.
He’ll be keen to out in a strong showing on Monday, although it won’t be easy going up against Ashley Young. The 33-year-old has been a stalwart at the Red Devils and has established himself as the club’s first choice right back.
He’ll certainly have his work cut out going up against Hazard to try and limit his impact on the game in what will be a thrilling duel to watch.
2. Paul Pogba vs. N’Golo Kante
They are international teammates, however on Monday night they will find themselves in opposite dressing rooms as two of France’s finest midfielders are set to go head-to-head.
Paul Pogba has arguably been United’s best player so far this campaign, especially since Solskjaer’s arrival. He’ll certainly need to play his part if United are to progress into the next round.
Wearing the opposite colours will be N’Golo Kante who makes a habit of bossing the midfield areas. He’ll likely be tasked with limiting Pogba’s impact on the game whilst also bridging the link between Chelsea’s defenders and forwards. This is certainly a duel that can’t be missed.
3. Marcus Rashford vs. Antonio Rudiger
With five goals in his last six Premier League appearances, Marcus Rashford is on red hot form in front of goal at present. He’s establishing himself as United’s lone striker and looks to be repaying the faith Solskjaer has shown in him in recent weeks.
He looks set to feature on Monday night, and it’ll likely be up to Antonio Rudiger to limit the impact of the Englishman. The German has cemented his place in the Chelsea back line since his arrival at the club and will be key if the Blues are to keep Rashford and United’s other forwards quiet.
It could be the clash which decides the tie, and both men will be keen to put in solid performances for their respective teams with so much at stake.