Chelsea backed to stave off Man Utd's challenge for top-four Premier League finish

Goal.com

Manchester United are coming back stronger after the coronavirus break but Chelsea can beat them to a top-four finish, according to Joe Cole.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side returned to action with a 1-1 draw at Tottenham on Friday night, with Chelsea travelling to Aston Villa on Sunday.

The Blues, currently in fourth, can extend their lead over fifth-placed United to four points with a win at Villa Park.

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Paul Pogba impressed on his return from injury for United, but Cole thinks Frank Lampard’s side have enough to hold off their Champions League challenge.

“It's hard because none of us have seen any kind of form, we don't know what's going on,” Cole said on BT Sport.

“You look at the logic and Pogba is going to be back fit for Man Utd. Bruno Fernandes will have settled in a little bit more. He looks like an excellent signing. They'll be chasing Chelsea down.

“The logical thing is Man Utd will come back stronger because they've got their best player back in Paul Pogba, but I think Frank's got enough to hang on in there and nick that fourth place.

“I know Frank's a winner and he'll be looking at the FA Cup as well. That's vitally important for that club because over the last 20 years has been built on winning trophies and that's what the fans want to see.”

Chelsea are through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but face a difficult trip to Leicester at the end of June.

Back in the Premier League, Cole also cast a glance over the relegation battle.

The bottom six are separated by just eight points, with three teams level on 27 points going into this weekend’s fixtures.

While Cole is backing the relative rookie Lampard to thrive at Chelsea, he thinks experience is key at the other end of the table.

“The managers have a real hire wire job to do, you've got to crack the whip to get the players fit, and any players in their squad who are a little bit fragile, or susceptible to injuries, they're the ones that you risk losing,” he said.

“A hamstring problem, a three or four-week problem now, that's the season done. Managers have to get the right balance to get the fitness into the legs but also keeping them fresh enough so they don't pick up any silly niggling injuries.

“An experienced manager now is vital. If you get it wrong and lose two or three of your best players for a three or four-week spell, you really give yourself less of a chance of achieving your goal.”

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