Most pair of eyes would have been glued to the TV sets on the match at White Hart Lane, where Tottenham have secured a late winner thanks to Gareth Bale’s yet another stunning strike making tomorrow’s high profile clash at Old Trafford, Manchester a must win match for Chelsea. The Reds from Manchester will entertain the Blues from London at Old Trafford, which would be yet another meeting between these two English giants this season; 5th to be precise. The stadium for certain would bleed Red v Blue. It will be Pride v Need which would be the focal point of tomorrow’s battle. More importantly, it will be the battle of old guards, Sir Alex v Rafa Benitez.
The Champions, Manchester United are back in action at home after their hard fought 1-1 draw against a spirited rather unfortunate Arsenal side who were unlucky to claim all the 3 points. Distraction and buzz in the form of Partying on wresting back the title and the Guard of Honor might have put off Manchester United and its players against Arsenal, whose performance as a team was listless. The Red Train never got going; rather they never started as it was Arsenal who dominated the possession play and did the damage. If not for David De Gea at the back and Sagna’s gift, Manchester United would have had a disappointed match. The link up play between the midfield and the attack was never existent as Arsenal had done their homework in pressurizing their midfield which led United to lose possession cheaply. Adding to their persistent problem throughout the season, their wings just did not possess enough wings to cause trouble. While there are some positives like fielding Jones at the midfield who almost scored twice through two headers, Ryan Giggs’ introduction bringing a new spark to United play towards the end. And may be, allowing Rooney to take a deeper role is the solution United need currently which was justified again when he threw in a mouthwatering cross field pass from behind the midfield line that allowed Giggs to launch a counter attack.
Upon analyzing the last few matches against Chelsea, United’s quick play and bursting counter attack that has caused the all the damage for Chelsea. And United would need to get the ball rolling in attack from the start if at all they aim in posing a threat to Chelsea side in tomorrow’s clash thereby denting their chances for a Champions League spot, who are tactically a competent side under their interim manager Benitez.
Coming off a 3-1 win over F.C.Basel at home, whom Manchester United were unable to pass through last season would be a boost in confidence for the Blues. And with the spot clash for Champions League setting to go all the way down to wire, these next two games over the course of 3 days would make or break Chelsea’s desires and ambitions for next season in terms of the manager and player attractions they can offer. Despite having the numbers advantage on their side, Chelsea and its supporters well know that two slip ups in these two matches against two high profile sides in Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur would leave them high and dry; especially with Everton still to come. Having carried forwards the lasting pattern of starting well just to be pegged back in the middle of the season hasn’t helped them much, as has been the case this season. Having brought in the most controversial manager in Rafa Benitez might not have pleased the fans, but indeed has worked wonders in terms of tactical ability of this team.
Love or Hate him, Rafa Benitez is a shrewd operator and one who has his full control over this star studded team. For instance, Chelsea’s defensive problems of leaving huge gaps had been addressed and now they have a solid back four which is a great feat considering the stutter in the mid-season. Having entrusted more responsibility on David Luiz to play him more as an attacking defender has worked with 7 goals this season, which is more than Nani, Valencia and Young put together. Torres has been a rejuvenated figure now finding the net more often and with Lampard-Oscar-Mata-Hazard combination in the midfield who all have more than 15 goals in all competitions this season, a Chelsea side under Benitez have been far more threatening both at the front and more at the back than Di Matteo or AVB for instance. Having already defeated United once in the FA cup replay with a wonder strike from Demba Ba, Chelsea would assume to be knowing how to play against the newly crowned champions unless the Champions can offer a surprise!
With Sir Alex promising to field a strong line up tomorrow, we could expect Chicarito starting ahead of RVP, as it is a known fact of how much a threat Chicarito has posed to Chelsea. Although Welbeck has been ruled out with a knee injury with Ashley Young and Darren fletcher the usual absentees. The United skipper Nemanja Vidic has recovered from Calf strain and Paul Scholes is expected to make the bench after having recovered from a long term knee injury.
Man Utd (from): De Gea, Lindegaard, Rafael, Smalling, Jones, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Buttner, Nani, Valencia, Powell, Carrick, Scholes, Anderson, Cleverley, Giggs, Kagawa, Van Persie, Rooney, Hernandez.
With an important midweek clash against Tottenham to come, Benitez would be expected to rest and rotate his big squad as he has been doing since he took over. Benitez has his full squad at disposal barring Oriol Romeu who is out with Knee injury and we would expect Benitez to fledge a strong team, considering a victory would be as sweet against his long term rival Sir Alex.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Turnbull, Hilario, Cole, Ivanovic, Bertrand, Luiz, Terry, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Oscar, Mata, Mikel, Moses, Lampard, Hazard, Torres, Benayoun, Marin, Ake, Ferreira, Ba.
- Manchester United have lost more games (13) and conceded more goals (55) against Chelsea over the course of Premier League than any other opponents, indicating it has always been a high scoring encounter.
- Chicarito has scored 6 goals in last 8 games against Chelsea, proving to be a nemesis for Chelsea’s back four.
- Manchester United United have hit the woodwork more often (22 times) than any other team in premier league while Chelsea have the least number with just 5 times.
- Chelsea have managed just one clean sheet in their last 17 outings at Old Trafford, the last being a 3-0 win in December 2001.
- Manchester United have not seen any Red Cards this season, being the most disciplined team with Chelsea seeing two Red Cards to Ivanovic and Torres.
- Frank Lampard needs just one more goal to pass the record for having scored most Chelsea goals who is now squared up with Chelsea legend Bobby Tambling on 201 goals.
- Chelsea’s Juan Mata is the Premier League’s top playmaker this season with 12 assists closely followed by Manchester United’s own Wayne Rooney with 10.
- Manchester United need to win their remaining 3 fixtures to pass the previous record wins in a season (29) currently held by the Blues Chelsea during their 2004-05 season.
- Chelsea this season have the highest team score having defeated Aston Villa 8-0, while Manchester United have the longest unbeaten sequence of going 18 games unbeaten from late November to Early April in Premier League.
Yet another complacent performance tomorrow against a Chelsea side who are up and running with Confidence would dent the champions once again. If Manchester United go about their job just like they played against Aston Villa at home last time, Chelsea would find it hard to come away with a point. While Chelsea themselves have the enough quality and capability to counter United’s play, this match would be too tight to call.
Manchester United 2-2 Chelsea