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Predicted Chelsea lineup against Manchester United: Mikel, Hazard, Remy to start?

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There is still very little we know of Guus Hiddink's squad selection tendencies, even though matches are coming thick and fast during this traditional festive period.

On Saturday, he named what on paper appeared to be a very strong lineup, essentially the same team that we rode to Premier League glory last season.  The one name missing was Eden Hazard, who was still recovering from his hip injury suffered against Leicester City.  He was fit enough for the bench, and looked lively enough on the ball when he came on a substitute, but his off-the-ball work and movement betrayed his less than 100% condition.  There was a report as well of him leaving Stamford Bridge limping, though with a 48-hour rest, perhaps he'll be fit enough to start.

Where he would start could also be an interesting development.  With Diego Costa suspended, Loïc Rémy looks likely to get the start, but Hiddink's possible reluctance to throw him into the fray on Saturday — our third sub went unused — could add some weight to Twitter rumors of Hazard (or Oscar?) getting the start once again at center forward.  Mourinho had experimented with such moves a couple times as well, to mixed results.

Further back, in midfield, Mikel's introduction at half-time was a change Hiddink spoke of in glowing terms.  I'd expect the Chelsea veteran to get the start tomorrow, probably instead of Fabregas, though a switch to a three-man midfield that also contained Ramires might not be the worst idea, especially against a team expected to dominate time of possession.

Perhaps the most surprising move from Hiddink on Saturday was dropping Kurt Zouma.  While the young defender had made a few mistakes in recent weeks, he had very much become the first-choice center back under Mourinho.  Based on the evidence of just one match, the interim manager seems to favor the more veteran, less mobile, and less proactive duo of Cahill and Terry.  Of course, it is just one match, and the selection against Manchester United might paint a different picture.

Adding further uncertainty is Hiddink's supposed mandate to play the youth.  There was zero evidence of that on display on Saturday, but perhaps he was just saving them for Old Trafford?  That sounds unlikely, but it's still a possibility.  Given all the unknowns, any lineup prediction is more of a blind guess at this point.  My preference would be to play the standard back four with Zouma, a three-man midfield with Mikel, Matic, and Ramires and a front three of Hazard (if fit, Pedro if not), Remy, and Willian.  But as a prediction, I think we'll look more or less the same the same way as we have in our recent matches.

Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic | Matic, Mikel | Pedro/Hazard, Oscar, Willian | Remy

The community's choice aligns closely with my own preferences, but does give a slight edge to Ruben Loftus-Cheek over Ramires.

Courtois | Azpilicueta, Terry, Zouma, Ivanovic | Matic, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek | Hazard, Remy, Willian

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