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With five draws from their last eight Barclays Premier League games, and only two wins, even a Chelsea win at Manchester United is unlikely to haul them back in the title race as they sit 12 points adrift of Manchester City. Chelsea are instead seemingly in a four-way fight for fourth place, and the UEFA Champions League, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle to mean a win against United is crucial for Villas-Boas. With seven wins out of their last nine Barclays Premier League games, including their most recent three, Manchester United have drawn level on points with leaders and rivals Manchester City. United enjoy a good overall record against Chelsea having won five of their last six matches in all competitions, but, when it comes to the league, Ferguson's men have not succeeded in their last nine visits to Stamford Bridge.
• Chelsea have salvaged eight points from the seven league matches in which conceded the first goal.
• Man Utd have yet to lose after opening the scoring this season (W17, D2), but they are winless in the four games in which they conceded the first goal.
John Terry will avoid the controversy of whether he and Rio Ferdinand shake hands at Stamford Bridge because the Chelsea captain will miss the match with the knee problem that kept him out of Tuesday’s draw at Swansea. Terry, who was this morning stripped of the England captaincy for the second time in his career, has been unable to train this week. Andre Villas-Boas will be without Ashley Cole for the visit of Man United following his red card for two bookings at Swansea. This will force a reshuffle in defence, with Ryan Bertrand likely to play at left-back. Alternatively, the Chelsea boss could shift Jose Bosingwa to left-back, with Branislav Ivanovic moving over to the right and Gary Cahill earning his debut at centre-back. Frank Lampard's availability following a tear in a calf muscle will be assessed during training on Saturday but he has a chance of being included in the squad.
Rooney, Nani, Young and Cleverley will all return to the Manchester United squad that travels to London. All four have recovered from foot injuries, but Rooney and Nani are the most likely to start because they've spent less time out of action. An ankle injury means Anders Lindegaard will be out for a month meaning David de Gea should return in goal after illness, relegating Ben Amos to the bench, despite the youngster keeping a clean sheet against Stoke.
Possible starting XIs:
P Cech • J Bosingwa, D Luiz, B Ivanovic, R Bertrand • R Meireles, O Romeu, F Malouda • D Sturridge, F Torres, JM Mata
D de Gea • C Smalling, R Ferdinand, J Evans, P Evra • LA Valencia, M Carrick, R Giggs, Nani • W Rooney • D Welbeck