No matter the relationship or lack of it between their managers, the players are the ones that will still determine the victory when Manchester United host Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday. The pending question for Mourinho is the way Paul Pogba will perform while Antonio Conte will be hoping they can play the ‘perfect’ match.
Here are some of the key battles expected in the game.
Valencia v Hazard
Antonio Valencia understands wing play because he was a former winger but he will need all his wits around him against the trickery of Eden Hazard, who is currently in the form of his life. If Hazard clicks and gets the better of Valencia, United will be in trouble but if the little Belgian can be contained by Valencia, then United stand a chance.
Smalling v Giroud
Chris Smalling blows hot and cold but he needs to be steady against the big-game experience of Olivier Giroud, who should be preferred ahead of Alvaro Morata. Although Smalling’s partnership with Victor Lindelof has not inferred much confidence, they have been astute at Old Trafford.
Matic v Willian
The former Blue will be aiming to put a blanket on the marauding runs of Willian from midfield positions. Though the Serb is not the fastest player, he is a very good reader of matches and his job of keeping the players around him ticking over is one he does quite well. Willian was in great form against Barcelona and will want to show he can influence matches for good.
Lukaku v Christensen
Chelsea wanted Lukaku in the summer and he did his EPL apprentice at Stamford Bridge; but on Sunday he must try to score his first goal against a top six side this season. He is pitted against another Chelsea apprentice made good in Christian Christensen, who made a costly mistake against Barcelona. Will Lukaku be able to take advantage or will he continue his barren run?
Sanchez v Azpilicueta
This is the sort of match for which Alexis Sanchez was lured away from Arsenal in January but in Cesar Azpilicueta, he faces a composed and concentrated tackler. Though he will have to get away from Victor Moses before facing the Spaniard.
In as much as the 90 minutes will depend of these duels, the managers need to get their formations and line-ups correct so that their teams will be given the best chance to get a good result in this very important affair.