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Man Utd v Chelsea - Premier League: Big Game Preview

Manchester United vs Chelsea is always one of the iconic fixtures on the Premier League calendar, but just how much do both teams have to play for this Thursday?

Original article published 27 April 2022

A disastrous April has all but ended United's hopes of securing a top-four finish, while Chelsea look secure in third despite their own recent wobbles.

Regardless of what is at stake, both teams will no doubt be up for the fight at Old Trafford, with United priced at 23/10 to win the match, while Chelsea are 23/20 and the draw is 5/2.

Win or bust for United?

It has certainly not been the finest spring in United's history, with the Red Devils having won just twice in eight Premier League matches.

That sequence includes three defeats from their last four top-flight fixtures, a run that leaves them sixth in the standings, six points behind fourth-placed Arsenal, who beat United at the Emirates Stadium last Saturday, while the Gunners also boast a game in hand.

All that suggests United's 100/1 hopes of securing a top-four finish are over, but if interim boss Ralf Rangnick can inspire his side to a victory over Chelsea then maybe just maybe there is a glimmer of hope.

Recent history is certainly on United's side in this fixture, as Chelsea have not won away at Old Trafford in any competition since May 2013 when now Red Devils player Juan Mata scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory.

It is not just away from home where Chelsea have struggled in this fixture, as the Blues have won just one of the last 10 meetings between the two sides, although that sole success was an FA Cup semi-final victory back in 2020.

Sunday's 1-0 victory over West Ham, which came courtesy of a 90th-minute strike by Christian Pulisic, appears to have ended any concerns Chelsea would have had of finishing in the top four.

Thomas Tuchel's side are seven points clear of Tottenham in fifth, while they have played at least one game less than any of the sides directly below them in the standings.

It is 25/1 for the Blues to not end the season in the top four, and while one or two nerves may start jangling if they lose at Old Trafford, they should have enough to avoid an uneasy finish to the campaign.

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Hosts down to the bare bones

United have injury concerns heading into Thursday's match, with Rangnick confirming at his pre-match press conference that he only has 14 senior professionals fit and available for selection.

Captain Harry Maguire, who was an unused substitute against Arsenal at the weekend, has been ruled out with a knee issue and he joins Paul Pogba, Fred, Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani on the treatment table, although the latter is expected to return to training on Friday and could feature against Brentford on Monday.

Jadon Sancho has also been ruled out due to illness, with Rangnick acknowledging he may have to turn to youngsters such as Hannibal Mejbri and Alejandro Garnacho.

One man that is available is Cristiano Ronaldo, who struck his 100th Premier League goal in the 3-1 loss to Arsenal. The Portuguese superstar will undoubtedly be United's main source for goals against Chelsea and he can be backed at 11/8 to score anytime.

Outgoing Rudiger set to feature

Antonio Rudiger has not featured for Chelsea since their FA Cup semi-final victory over Crystal Palace due to a groin problem, during which time it has been confirmed the German international will leave the club when his contract expires this summer.

An announcement on the 29-year-old joining Real Madrid is expected to be made in due course, with Tuchel having acknowledged that it will be a blow for the club to lose such a "unique character".

However, it appears Tuchel has no concerns about sticking with Rudiger between now and the end of the season, with the former Roma star and fellow defender Reece James in line to return to the line-up on Thursday.

Rudiger has netted in two of his last five Chelsea appearances and is no stranger to liking a shot from range. He can be backed at 12/1 to notch anytime on Thursday.

Andreas Christensen is another player that could return to the Chelsea starting XI this midweek, although Tuchel has confirmed Ross Barkley will not be in the squad due to illness and he joins Mateo Kovacic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ben Chilwell on the sidelines.

Draw on the cards at Old Trafford

This is a fixture usually decided by fine margins, with the last three meetings between the sides having ended all-square, including the 1-1 draw they played out at Stamford Bridge in November when a Jorginho penalty for Chelsea cancelled out Sancho's opener.

Both meetings last season ended 0-0, a scoreline that is priced at 11/1 to come in on Thursday.

While no one wants to advocate for a goalless draw, would anybody really be too surprised given a point would further consolidate third place for Chelsea, while a depleted United may lack the quality to break their opponents down.

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