FA Cup holders Chelsea will face a stern test of the defence of their crown when they welcome Manchester United to Stamford Bridge on Monday for a repeat of last year’s final.
The Blues, who won 1-0 at Wembley last May to lift the famous trophy, are still licking their wounds from the 6-0 humbling at Manchester City in the Premier League last weekend and they must demonstrate they are not going the wrong way under Maurizio Sarri.
They did just about see off Malmo in the Europa League last-32 first leg on Thursday, winning 2-1 in Sweden, but Monday’s fifth-round tie will be much more difficult against a revitalised United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
There are doubts over Sarri’s long-term future at the Bridge following recent poor results and performances but reports suggest he still retains the faith of the dressing room, despite the fact that clearly some of the players are struggling to get to grips with his so-called ‘Sarri-ball’ approach.
They are usually at their best at home, though, winning their last five in all competitions in front of their own fans and not tasting defeat since a shock reverse against Leicester just before Christmas.
Chelsea will likely try and take the game to the Red Devils, who will also be keen to react after their 2-0 Champions League defeat at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
Solskjaer has done a lot right since being brought in as initial interim manager at Old Trafford, winning 10 of his 12 games in charge so far, and has managed to get the best out of previously under-performing stars like Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford.
However, there remains a doubt over their defensive solidity and Chelsea can exploit that on Monday.
With no replays in the fifth round and both managers expected to field fairly strong line-ups, it is set to be a close battle but Chelsea can edge it and recent signing Gonzalo Higuain is tipped to find the back of the net anytime at 27/20.
United have recently lost Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial for at least a fortnight so that further enhances the home side’s claims as they look to become the first team to eliminate United in five consecutive FA Cup meetings.
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