Mourinho and Conte set to lock horns once more
Manchester United and Chelsea face one another this weekend in what is sure to be another highly-charged encounter.
Victory for Antonio Conte's men will edge them closer to the Premier League crown, while Jose Mourinho needs a win against his former side to bolster United's top-four ambitions.
Here, we pick out some of the key talking points ahead of Sunday's Old Trafford clash.
CAN CHELSEA EDGE CLOSER TO THE TITLE?
Last season's embarrassing title defence cost Mourinho his job at Stamford Bridge and led to some serious soul-searching around the club. Conte was charged with restoring order in the summer and has surpassed expectations given the Blues sit seven points clear at the top with seven matches remaining. Chelsea have beaten United at home in both the league and FA Cup this season and are targeting a fourth successive away victory in the Premier League on Sunday.
EUROPA LEAGUE IMPACT?
While Chelsea had time to recuperate and refocus after last Saturday's 3-1 win at Bournemouth, United touched down in Manchester in the early hours of Friday morning after their latest Europa League adventure. A last-gasp goal in Belgium earned Anderlecht a 1-1 draw and left Mourinho stewing, with the quarter-final second leg coming just days after the Chelsea match. It means United not only have tiredness to contend with but the fact the crucial return fixture looms large in a competition that offers both silverware and Champions League qualification.
YET MORE OLD TRAFFORD FRUSTRATION?
United have gone 21 matches unbeaten in the Premier League since October's 4-0 shellacking at Stamford Bridge, but 10 of those results have been draws. The inability to turn dominance into goals has been costly this season – rearing its head again in Belgium – and means United have had to share the spoils at Old Trafford on nine occasions, including their last three home outings. United need to quickly find the killer instinct that Mourinho has continually highlighted.
Conte and Mourinho are not exactly shy and retiring characters. The Italian's touchline antics have been well documented and got under the United manager's skin in October, leading him to pull up his Chelsea counterpart at the end of the match. Mourinho, the most successful manager in the Blues' history, was again the centre of attention in last month's FA Cup tie, where he reacted to a barrage of abuse by showing the home support three fingers – representing the number of leagues titles he led them to. It would be wise to keep an eye on the dugouts this Sunday.
So spectacular under Mourinho's guidance as Chelsea won the 2014-15 title, Eden Hazard's drop off the following campaign was stark. He was not alone in underperforming during the Blues' disastrous title defence, but Hazard's fractious relationship with the Portuguese was as clear as his upturn following the change in management. The Belgium international has been outstanding again this season and is rightfully among the favourites to be crowned the PFA Player of the Year. Hazard was a thorn in the side on both of this season's previous meetings with his former manager, who needs to find a way to shackle the 26-year-old on Sunday.