Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Manchester United v Chelsea | Monday 28 December | Old Trafford | 19:30
Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Two of the Premier League's most successful sides will square off this evening in a game that is likely to have little bearing on the fate of the Premier League title. Both sides suffered underwhelming results this past Boxing Day. Chelsea were held to a two all draw by Watford while United went down by two goals to nil at Stoke. The results have seen both sides slip further down the table, with Chelsea currently sitting in 15th spot on the log and United in sixth.
Both sides will be desperate to head into the New Year on a high note so expect this one to be hard fought.
To Win (90 Mins)
Manchester United 29/20
Louis Van Gaal continues to infuriate United supporters with his rigid formation and strange team selections. Boxing Day saw the United mentor field a starting 11 that didn't feature Wayne Rooney nor Morgan Schneiderlin. The duo were left on the bench with Ander Herrera and Michael Carrick favoured as the midfield pairing. While Rooney has been struggling for form in recent months, I can still understand the Old Trafford faithful being vexed by the decision. The United skipper is a player who can provide that moment of magic that his side desperately crave, and to leave him on the bench just seems wasteful.
While the decision to leave Schneiderlin on the pine makes a bit more sense than the Rooney scenario, I still think the former Southampton man's attributes would have helped sure up United's midfield. The French international is a workhorse who possess an incredible amount of stamina. The game against Stoke illustrated just how slow United are in the middle of the park. With Chelsea's midfield containing the likes of Oscar and Willian, United are going to need to be more aggressive and press harder if they are to win the midfield duel on Monday night.
As much as I think Rooney and Schneiderlin should start against Chelsea, I highly doubt that Van Gaal sees eye to eye with me. The United mentor is a stubborn man and he's unlikely to change his 'safety first' philosophy. However, with the pressure mounting, the Dutchman's stubborn demeanour may cost him his job.
This past weekend proved that all the blame for the defending champions poor start to the season cannot solely lie with Jose Mourinho. Yes the former Chelsea mentor is a self-proclaimed egotist, and yes some of his behaviour this season was well offside, but if you've got a squad failing to perform to the required levels you're likely to see your imperfections drastically exaggerated by the media.
Anyway away from the Mourinho saga and onto Chelsea's performance. The Blues enjoyed a decent start to the game with Diego Costa giving them the lead on the 32-minute mark. However, a lax bit of defending from Nemanja Matic saw the Serbian international give away a penalty. Watford Striker, Troy Deeney, stepped up and slotted the ball into the back of the net from the penalty spot and ensured the teams would go into the break with the scores level.
The second stanza saw Watford steal into the lead through a scrappy goal from Odion Ighalo. Chelsea responded shortly after going down however with Diego Costa grabbing his second goal of the game. The Blues then had the opportunity to reclaim the lead when they were handed a penalty. Oscar stepped up to take it but as he was running up, he slipped and ballooned the ball into row Z. Chelsea continued to search for the winning goal, but a stern Watford defense managed to keep them at bay.
Guus Hiddink now has the enviable task of trying to get his side motivated for a clash against one of their old enemies. I wouldn't be surprised if the well-travelled manager opts to shake up his starting lineup. Oscar may find himself relegated to the bench, with Eden Hazard coming in for the young Brazilian. Hiddink may also opt to change things at the back, but I'm not even going to try and predict what he'll do there.
Verdict: Draw 21/10
With Van Gaal sticking to his rigid formation and Guus Hiddink likely to deploy a defensive approach, I fancy the sides will cancel each other out.
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