Sunday, 8th August 2010
KO: 20:00 IST
Ref: Andre Marriner
The “dress rehearsal” for the season-long battle gets underway this weekend; a chance for both the teams to get their act together before another grueling league season.
Chelsea proved their supremacy last season as they cleaned up both the major domestic trophies on offer whereas United had to make do with the consolation of the League Cup. There isn’t much of a doubt that come next year these two would be at the forefront once again. so some psychological advantage wouldn’t do both teams any harm.
The battle resumes!
The teams haven’t had a lot of time to prepare for this one with most of their major players just back after a well earned break. This might provide an opportunity for the fringe players to stake a claim early on and get in the first team reckoning. Looking at it objectively, none of the teams have anything to lose; there aren’t any points on offer, only a small matter of bragging rights. Chelsea managed to defeat United last season in a penalty shoot-out and also did the double over them. Devils need to restore some pride and this could just be the catalyst.
Blues have had the best season ever in their history; their first ever double was a fitting reply to all those who doubted Carlo Ancelotti’s pedigree as an astute manager. Finally the London club seems to be coming out of the shadow of the “Special one”. Success is hard to achieve but sustaining it isn’t child’s play. Chelsea have bid farewell to some of its stars: Ballack, Beletti and Joe Cole have all moved on from Stamford Bridge. Yossi Benayoun remains the only major signing but expect at least 2 more faces to join the Champions before the transfer windows closes.
Brazilian Ramires from Portugal’s Benfica is the next in line with the two clubs locked in negotiations for days but have now agreed on a fee of 18.2 million pounds. However, he is unlikely to play a part this weekend. Further good news for Chelsea supporters, their World Cup stars are back and most of them got a run out in the friendly against German side Hamburg FC, although the performance and the result weren’t flattering. Carlo Ancelotti has, in fact, already named the side for the clash with Hilario set to start in goal. Drogba will take his place on the bench alongside promising youngsters like Gael Kakuta and Jeffrey Bruma. New boy Yossi Benayoun is also named as one of the substitutes.
Powerhouse Essien is back!
Manchester United lost the grip on their title for the first time in 4 years and would be desperate to get the trophy back to Old Trafford. However, all they can do this weekend is to kick start this season with a bang. The Manchester club are coming back from a tour to America where they had mixed fortunes. On the brighter side though, some of the youngsters grabbed the opportunity and have certainly given Sir Alex some food for thought. Macheda, Cleverly and ‘Chicharito’ all displayed maturity beyond their age.
Nemanja Vidic’s confirmation of his commitment towards the club was a sigh of relief for United supporters across the world. With the world cup stars back in training, including likes of Rooney, Vidic and Evra , Wembley provides another chance to get some playing time under their belt and an opportunity to test themselves against the best in England after some rather easy outings in Ireland and the United States. However, Rio Ferdinand, Anderson, Hargreaves, Carrick, Obertan, Rafael and Fabio are all either doubtful or out of the season’s curtain raiser.
A matter of concern for both the teams could be the Wembley pitch which has come under heavy criticism from a lot of experts and players alike. The last time United played there in the league cup final, they paid a heavy price despite their victory when Micheal Owen was ruled out for the season and several players suffering minor injuries. Although changes have been made to the pitch since then, both managers will be praying their players avoid injury. A defeat would be disappointing, but an injury would be a real blow.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT:
Michael Essien (Chelsea)
The Bison is back, Chelsea’s midfield magician would be raring to go once again after an injury plagued last season. Beware United and the rest of the league; this is the second coming of Essien.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT:
Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)
Chicharito has already earned himself a lot of admirers back in Manchester after his scintillating displays in the World Cup. The kid looks set to take the Premiership by storm – first up, the Champions themselves.
Hernandez has the OT faithful excited!
Key player battle(s): John Terry Vs Wayne Rooney
Great friends off the field but there won’t be any love lost on it. Both have a point to prove and a reputation to mend after horrific displays at the World Cup. Expect sparks to fly.