Old Trafford, England
April 3, 2010
Chelsea travel to Old Trafford to face Man United in a match that could well turn out to be the title-decider. The clash is between two of the English Premier League’s leading lights – One team is a reigning three-time English champion and is yearning for its 19th that would make it the most successful football club in England, while the other (champions in 2004-05 and 2005-06) has come excruciatingly close to winning the title in recent years, after parting ways with erstwhile coach Jose Mourinho. The last time Chelsea defeated Man United at Old Trafford, was in the title winning season of 2004-05. After that, the team from West London has failed to make an impression while playing in Manchester. In the last decade, this rivalry has grown in importance, as both these teams are usually the best bets when it comes to winning the League; ergo, we at TheHardTackle christen this clash the ‘The Derby of England’.
The team from Old Trafford has been in good form of late apart from a poor outing in Munich. The injury to Wayne Rooney is definitely a big blow, but with the title potentially up for grabs with the outcome of this game, the Red Devils will give it everything to emerge victors.
Wayne Rooney is out for three weeks with a minor ligament damage suffered in Munich. There is no damage in the bone as confirmed by Sir Alex. There are no further injury worries as Anderson and Michael Owen are the only other long term causalities.
The pair of John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves has been training with the first team and one of them might even make the bench. This comes as a big boost for United ahead of the important fixtures coming up.
Dimitar Berbatov will replace the injured Wayne Rooney. Sir Alex has preferred to play 4-5-1 in the big games this season, but the injury to Owen first and now Rooney has left him with no option. Macheda is fit and is expected to be on the bench.
Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher will make up the central midfield for United. Ji-Sung Park is expected to play on the left. Valencia could start ahead of Nani who had a poor showing in Munich. Rafael could start ahead of Neville at right back as the latter could be rested after starting the last few games for United.
Van Der Sar
Rafael Ferdinand Vidic Evra
Valencia Fletcher Giggs Park
From Man Utd’s Corner
The injury to Rooney could prove devastating to the Red Devils’ charge at the title as the striker has been in exceptional form this season. Dimitar Berbatov, who has been in good form of late, gets a chance to prove his class and importance.
Ferguson will look upon Vidic to keep a check on Didier Drogba as he has done in the past. The big striker has managed to score only one goal against Manchester United in all competitions before. Keeping him quiet could determine the result of the game. Rafael and Valencia would also have to be at their best to stop the attacks from the threatening left sided duo of Malouda and Zhirkov.
Keeping the ball will be the key for United as they were guilty of losing the ball too often in midweek against Munich. A good start to the game will be crucial against an in-form Chelsea team. The crowd will also play an important role in getting the home side over the line in this potential title-decider.
In its last two games, Chelsea has re-established itself as a serious title contender after the exit from Europe and an indifferent league form had raised questions about the club’s intent. They have scored 12 goals in the past two games including a 7-1 demolition of Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. With six games remaining, Carlo Ancelotti has urged his team to approach each game like a cup final and the match this weekend is the biggest of them all. If the Blues manage to defeat the Red Devils in their own backyard, it would be a ‘statement of purpose’ of monumental proportions.
Chelsea will be without Ricardo Carvalho, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien and Jose Bosingwa while Branislav Ivanovic remains doubtful. But their talismanic forward Didier Drogba should start after being rested against Villa.
Carlo Ancelotti is expected to continue with a 4-3-3 formation, in which players like Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard have excelled till now but there is a possibility that the Italian might change it to accommodate both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. Deco is expected to hold on to his position in the midfield and Joe Cole should start on the right wing.
Ferierra Alex Terry Zhirkov
Joe Cole Malouda
If the formation proves ineffective, Carlo can bring on Anelka and Ballack in place of Cole and Deco, but then should preferably use Anelka up-front with Drogba and not waste him on the right flank.
From Chelsea’s corner
Wayne Rooney’s injury could not have happened at a worse time for Man United, but John Terry has to ensure that his defence does not become complacent due to the unavailability of the ‘Golden Boot’ front-runner. The Red Devils still have players who can change the outcome of any game. The Chelsea full-backs have to be very disciplined, considering United has players like Nani, Park and Valencia, who can take advantage of any slackness on the pitch.
Offensively, Chelsea’s hopes rest on Drogba, Malouda and Lampard. This season, the Ivorian has been immense against the big teams in the league and the Blues will be banking on him to take them past Man United.
On the whole, this match is a mouth-watering fixture with the two contenders going head-to-head for the title while Arsenal – still very much in the race – would be hoping for a draw.