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Match Preview: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

Manchester United will look to continue their recent good form away at Chelsea on Sunday.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

Manchester United were both good and exciting in their win at home to Stoke City last weekend, and have now scored three goals in back-to-back matches for the first time since September. It's too early to tell whether the recent upturn in form is an aberration or the first sign of a lasting improvement, but we'll know a little better after Louis van Gaal's side take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The Premier League defending champions are enduring a freakishly bad season, and not even the arrival of Guus Hiddink has brought much of an improvement. They've drawn five of their last seven Premier League matches, and find themselves below mid-table makeweights like Watford, Stoke City, Everton, Crystal Palace and Liverpool in the league table.

That said, United's recent record against Chelsea has been nothing short of shocking: they've not beaten the Blues since 2012, when Rafael laid on an assist for a Javier Hernández winner with 15 minutes remaining. Now now, don't cry dear ...

Team news

United will still be without long-term absentees Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia, Marcos Rojo, Ashley Young and Bastian Schweinsteiger, though Phil Jones could return to action after returning to training in midweek. It would be sensible for Morgan Schneiderlin to come into midfield in the place of Marouane Fellaini, but that seems rather wishful thinking; United will probably remain unchanged.

Chelsea will certainly be without United flop Radamel Falcao, while fellow forward Loïc Rémy is also injured. January reinforcement Alexandre Pato is unlikely to be involved, as he bids to get up to Premier League speed.

Tactics

Chelsea have appeared to be peculiarly lacking in an identity so far this season, with José Mourinho's cynical counter-attacking football -- seemingly so reliant on the siege mentality of his players -- having lost its edge when he lost the dressing room.

Since then -- and into the tenure of Hiddink -- their football has been something of a sprawling, mushy mess, in which they control possession but don't always do a great job with it. Eden Hazard seems to want away; Chelsea supporters want the disappointing Fàbregas away; and Diego Costa has only recently begun to show signs of his bullying best. Their most consistently solid attacker this season has almost certainly been Willian, who has shown impressive industry down the right flank.

Of course, they're still a star-studded team and only won the Premier League last season, so United certainly shouldn't get complacent. However, this Chelsea team certainly seem there for the taking. Branislav Ivanović has managed to recover from his shocking start to the season, though still seems to be something of an Achilles' heel; John Terry and Kurt Zouma is also not the most convincing of centre-back pairings. If United counter with width and pace like they did against Stoke last weekend, they'll have an excellent chance.

Predicted lineups

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Thibaut Courtois; César Azpilicueta, Kurt Zouma, John Terry, Branislav Ivanović; Nemanja Matić, John Obi Mikel; Eden Hazard, Cesc Fàbregas, Willian; Diego Costa.

Manchester United (4-2-3-1): David de Gea; Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, Daley Blind, Chris Smalling, Matteo Darmian; Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick; Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard; Wayne Rooney.