Opportunity knocks. An opportunity created through a most unlikely source, one that was in fact also party to one of our most frustrating results last season. Perhaps it's not so unlikely after all, in light of that. Still, few expected the 2-1 win by West Ham United over our closest and most serious title rivals Manchester City.
Of course, now comes the key part. Answering the door, grabbing opportunity by both shoulders, and sitting it down for a little heart-to-heart. Time impress opportunity and flash those title-winning credentials. Unlike the habit we've developed over the last few seasons -- the habits of non-title winners, in a sense -- this opportunity must not be let go to waste. Just a few months ago, we wasted it in spectacular fashion at home against Sunderland (not to mention the other opportunities lost away to Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, West Ham United, etc), but that feels like a lifetime away. That team has been transformed both in personnel through a few key signings and, on current evidence, in mentality through the evolution of a few others.
Unfortunately, we're not faced with an easy task, despite the joke that was David Moyes and Manchester United last year. New man and once Mourinho's mentor at Barcelona, Louis van Gaal may have had his struggles on the road, but at Old Trafford, he's won three straight. His defense may be a shambolic collection of decent no-names and well-known non-talents, but as we saw in the tremendously entertaining El Clasico earlier this weekend, sometimes all you need is a glittering collection of world class attackers. And in Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata, Robin van Persie, Falcao, and Wayne Rooney, United have one of the world's greatest collections indeed.
Top-heavy United vs. a balanced Chelsea? There will be
Date / Time: Sunday, October 26, 2014, 16:00 GMT; 12pm EDT; 9:30pm IST
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Referee: Phil Dowd - the Premier League's second oldest referee, Dowd has been around long enough (since 2001 in fact) for basically every team and every fan to have a reason to hate him. That's a referee's lot in life, I suppose. For what it's worth, Chelsea have won 9 of the last 10 matches under Phil Dowd, including last month's 3-0 win over Aston Villa, the 2013 FA Cup, and two meetings with Manchester United (the 1-0 in the FA Cup and the Eto'o hattrick game at the Bridge).
Forecast: Breezy with a chance of a shower or two.
On TV: Sky Sports 1 (UK); NBC, Telemundo (USA); Star Sports 2 / HD 2 (India); elsewhere
Online: Sky Go (UK); NBC Sports Live Extra, Telemundo En Vivo (USA); Start Sports (India)
Manchester United team news: The big boost for the hosts is that Angel Di Maria should be fit to start, though the same thing can't be said for Radamel Falcao, who got kicked in training on Friday and is suddenly a doubt for the game. (Thanks, Agent Mata, even if it wasn't you!) Gary Cahill surely won't mind if he doesn't have to face the man who torched Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup that one time. Wow, that flashback sure was not pretty.
With Wayne Rooney still suspended, the somewhat out of form Robin van Persie should spearhead the attack, while there's also a good chance that Juan Mata will get to play against Chelsea for the first time since moving to Manchester. In midfield, Michael Carrick might be fit enough to make the bench, while Ander Herrera is expected to do one better and start in his customary spot next to Daley Blind in midfield. Antonio Valenca, Jonny Evans, and young Paddy McNair remain sidelined.
View from the enemy: The Busby Babe
Chelsea team news: The latest rumor is that in Saturday training, Diego Costa has managed to convince Mourinho of his fitness and readiness and has at least traveled with the team to Manchester. Similar good news has been attached to André Schürrle who has kicked whatever illness had been affecting him. Ramires and Mikel remain slightly doubtful, but the only player who's ruled out 100 percent is Loïc Rémy. Oh, and César Azpilicueta who begins his three-match suspension.
At this point, with good result following good result, the Chelsea lineup in front of Thibaut Courtois practically picks itself. So Cesc Fàbregas will get to once again showcase his continuing evolution as a proper midfielder next to Nemanja Matic, while the standard back four (with Filipe Luis in for the suspended Dave at left back) and the standard front four (Hazard, Oscar, Willian/Schürrle behind Diego Costa) do the things that they do. Simple, right?
Previously: Here's a nice retrospective video from the Premier League about a few recent classics. While United hold the historical edge in this matchup (72 wins to 48, with 50 draws), Chelsea have not lost to the Red Devils in almost exactly two years (since Clattenburg-gate) and are unbeaten in the six matchups since (four wins).