So, the day's finally come and today we'll be witnessing the second battle of the season between Antonio Conte and José Mourinho. While the hype before such a clash of titans might not feel the same as it did a few seasons back, this game could nevertheless well be a crucial point in our season and also in our hunt to secure Champions League football for next season.
As we're about to have a full week's rest ahead of the Manchester City game, it does seem highly likely that the boss will field our strongest possible available line up, especially as dropping points would most probably lead to Chelsea dropping out of the top four, unless Sp*rs pull off a Sp*rs while playing away to Crystal Palace shortly before us.
That does seem to imply that once again we'll go with the (at the moment) trusty 3-4-3 formation that has served us well in recent games. The goalkeeper picks himself as usual, and staying with the same back three as we did against Barcelona seems the right choice. No need to rock the boat here. Christensen's rare mistake aside, this trio is our best chance of keeping United from scoring, especially considering Gary Cahill's drop in form and David Luiz's ongoing mysterious injury.
In the middle of the pitch, I've gone with the Kante-Fabregas pairing that did very well on Tuesday. Using Cesc gives us the possibility of creating a magnificent pass out of nowhere, a spark which we might desperately need if things start to go south. Regarding the wing-backs, Zappacosta returns to the starting line-up for the simple reason of providing some rotation, as well as him providing a better option up against the likes of Martial et al. than Moses would. On the other side, Alonso retains his spot as I don't believe Conte deems Emerson ready to start such a massive game as of yet (though you'd expect him to be fit enough after joining the squad a little short of a month ago).
Lastly, the front three, once again, seems a pretty obvious choice, at least out wide. Hazard and Willian should be flanking our attack, especially after the latter underlining against Barcelona why he should start ahead of Pedro. The only question that remains: Morata or Giroud? I've picked the tall Frenchman up top for two simple reasons; firstly, Giroud has proven against the defensive pairing of Chris 'Catastrophe' Smalling and Phil 'Handsome Face' Jones that he possesses the ability to absolutely boss the living cr*p out of them, as well as posing a potent aerial threat on set-plays that United haven't always dealt with reliably this season (Jones might be a doubt but the same more or less applies to the likes of Lindelof and Rojo). Secondly, the possibility of United playing it safe in their own back yard also seems highly likely, as the wonderful Rob Brown states quite clearly, and having a big presence up front who can hold up play just seems like the right choice.
My predicted line-up:
3-4-3: Courtois | Rüdiger, Christensen, Azpilicueta | Alonso, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta | Hazard, Giroud, Willian
The WAGNH community’s preferred line-up is more or less the same starting eleven, with the two exceptions of Moses getting the nod ahead of Davide Zappacosta and Alvaro Morata returning to the starting line up for the first time since the Leicester City game on January 13 (though Olivier Giroud isn't too far off with 43%).
3-4-3 (78%): Courtois (95%) | Rüdiger (79%), Christensen (97%), Azpilicueta (99%) | Alonso (85%), Kante (98%), Fabregas (78%), Moses (69%) | Hazard (99%), Morata (58%), Willian (89%)