An inevitable reality check for United came in the form of a Champions League defeat midweek, as Chelsea got back to winning ways in the Europa League two days later.
Due to these side’s contrasting recent results, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has managed to pull his team above Maurizio Sarri’s up into fourth spot in the Premier League; heaping even more pressure on the under-fire boss.
Regardless of how other competitions are going, the magic of the FA Cup offers both sides a chance of silverware this season as this crunch tie ends the round.
Kick-off: 19:30 [GMT]
Venue: Stamford Bridge
Referee: Kevin Friend
UK television channel: BBC One
Road to the round:
Chelsea 2-0 Nottingham Forest
Chelsea 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday
Recent form: WLWLW
Top scorer: Eden Hazard 
Most assists: Eden Hazard 
One to watch: N’Golo Kanté
Previous result: Malmö FF 1-2 Chelsea
Bouncing back from a catastrophic 6-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City eight days ago, the blues claimed a crucial victory in the Swedish capital thanks to Ross Barkley and Olivier Giroud away goals.
Barkley was the man who prevent United from winning in the fixture last October, scoring in added time to make it 2-2 as José Mourinho was taunted by a member of Sarri’s coaching staff.
Chelsea’s form has been mind-bogglingly inconsistent, as they have failed to gain any stability since the turn of the year – winning six, losing four and drawing just once.
A third consecutive home draw in this competition will likely work in their advantage in this one, as they have stopped United from winning at the soon-to-be-renovated Bridge on the past nine occasions, dating back to 28th October 2012.
In a quarter-final clash in 2017 FA Cup campaign, an N’Golo Kanté strike conquered an in-form United, who had Ander Herrera sent off 35 minutes in for a dubious second yellow card.
Adding to mounting pressure on Sarri, the blues have a cup final to prepare for, facing the aforementioned City in the Carabao Cup on Sunday at Wembley Stadium – while United play Liverpool at Old Trafford.
New signing Gonzalo Higuaín grabbed two goals in his so far only outing at Stamford Bridge since reuniting with his ‘football father’ in Sarri last month.
Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)
- Gary Cahill – back (back in training)
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek – back (day to day)
- Charley Musonda – knee (one week)
- Marco van Ginkel – cruciate ligament (next season)
(4-3-3) Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kanté, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuaín, Hazard.
Quote from the assistant boss
“It’s magnificent [The FA Cup], having a dream in football is amazing, and that’s what I appreciate about the competition.” – Gianfranco Zola
Next match: Malmö FF [H] 21/2/19
The Red Devils
United fell back down to Earth last week, as PSG outclassed them, leaving the reds with a mountain to climb in the second leg in just under three weeks time.
Two soft goals and a Paul Pogba sending off sent Solskjær’s squad back down to Earth, but ‘mountains are there to be climbed’ according to the boss.
Substituted after 45 minutes, attacking pair Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial will devastatingly miss two to three weeks with their respective muscle injuries – making team selections for this game and the aforementioned Liverpool clash very difficult.
Academy star Tahith Chong trained with the squad last week and could feature due to being spotted travelling down to London with the rest of the contingent.
Phil Jones, the man who has struggled against Eden Hazard numerous times in the FA Cup, was not spotted at the train station.
Chris Smalling took part in a very personal interview with The Times in the week, revealing his struggles behind-the-scenes and could feature at the Bridge.
After admitting that he needs to “find himself” when playing, Solskjær likened Alexis Sánchez to a difficult bottle of ketchup – in that once a goal comes, they will never stop.
The FA Cup has been a source of great success in recent years for the reds as they take on the team who beat them in the final at a Wembley nine months ago.
No replay will be on the cards as they have recently been abolished at this stage of the competition and onwards so extra-time and penalties are possible.
The draw for the quarter-finals will be drawn after the full-time whistle.
Injuries/suspensions (estimated return)
- Jesse Lingard – hamstring (three weeks)
- Anthony Martial – groin (three weeks)
- Antonio Valencia – knock (one week)
(4-1-2-1-2) Romero; Young, Bailly, Lindelöf, Shaw; Matić; Herrera, Pogba; Mata; Lukaku, Rashford.
Quote from the boss
“We won’t panic because we’ve lost a game — our mindset won’t change at all. We need to keep working the way we want to play and the way we approach games will always be in an attacking, positive frame of mind.” – Ole Gunnar Solskjær
Next match: Liverpool [H] 24/2/19
Potential key battles
– Gonzalo Higuaín vs Victor Lindelöf
– N’Golo Kanté vs Paul Pogba
– David Luiz vs Marcus Rashford
Match facts [credit: FotMob]
- United have lost three of their five FA Cup matches against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, winning 5-3 in 1997-98 and 2-0 in 1998-99
- Chelsea could become the first team to eliminate United in five consecutive FA Cup meetings
- The Pensioners are looking to reach the quarter-final for the fourth consecutive season, reaching the final in each of the last two
- The Red Devils have eliminated the holders 10 times – more than any other side in the competition’s history
- Alexis Sánchez has been involved in 19 goals (10 goals and 9 assists) in his 20 FA Cup games, more than any other player since his debut in the competition
Enjoy the match!