A place in the FA Cup quarter-finals will be on the line when Chelsea and Manchester United meet in a fifth round tie at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
The curtains will fall on the fifth round of the FA Cup as the last of the quarter-finalists are revealed. The current stage of the premier cup competition in England ends with a blockbuster tie, as Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, in what will be the repeat of last year’s final.
Chelsea progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup by easing past Sheffield Wednesday in a 3-0 win. But, their form since last month’s cup tie has been sketchy, with the Blues winning two and losing as many games, conceding a staggering 10 goals in the two defeats.
Manchester United, on the other hand, qualified for the Last 16 stage by beating Arsenal 3-1. The Red Devils have been on quite a run under interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, winning 10 of the 11 domestic games that he has overseen, although their most recent game ended with a first ever loss under the Norwegian, as PSG handed them a 2-0 defeat in the UEFA Champions League.
As iterated earlier, the two sides had met in last season’s FA Cup final, with Chelsea running out 1-0 winners to win the competition for the eighth time. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Maurizio Sarri does not have many pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Manchester United. The likes of Danny Drinkwater, Gary Cahill and Marco van Ginkel are likely to miss out, but none of the players are regulars anyway, meaning the Chelsea boss will not be fretting much.
Sarri though, is sweating over the fitness of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who will face a late fitness test to determine his availability as the English international continues his recovery from a back injury. Meanwhile, much of Chelsea’s team selection ought to be straightforward, starting with the goalkeeper.
Kepa Arrizabalaga should keep his place between the sticks, and so should Cesar Azpilicueta and David Luiz. The other two spots in back four, however, are up for rotations, with both Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso, who missed out against Malmo FF in the UEFA Europa League, returning to the starting lineup.
All the four defenders though, need to step up in the wake of their recent misgivings, with Azpilicueta, in particular, disappointing with his uncharacteristically unreliable showings at the back. In midfield, N’Golo Kante and Jorginho are certain starters, although the latter has been struggling lately.
The toss-up for the third spot ought to continue on Monday after both Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic started against Malmo. Barkley though, should get the nod over Kovacic after a positive ouing in Europe, following his horror show against Manchester City.
Up ahead in attack, Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain are likely to return, and the duo’s output will be key in inspiring Chelsea to the crucial win over Manchester United. The final spot in the side is likely to be handed to Pedro, who has been one of the few players performing decently on a consistent basis.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kepa; Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Luiz, Alonso; Kante, Jorginho, Barkley; Pedro, Higuain, Hazard
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has two fresh injury problems ahead of the trip to the capital, with Jesse Lingard (hamstring) and Anthony Martial (groin) out with short-term complaints. The duo sustained their respective injuries against PSG, and are likely to be sorely missed, especially with Alexis Sanchez flattering to deceive.
Sanchez though, is likely to be given a rare opportunity to impress, although he is running out of chances after disappointing yet again in the midweek Champions League tie. Meanwhile, in-form striker Marcus Rashford might be forced to play out wide due to the absence of Martial and Lingard, with Romelu Lukaku leading the line for Manchester United against Chelsea instead.
The onus will be on Rashford to drive his side forward once again, although Lukaku will also hold the key with his hold-up play. Meanwhile, Tahith Chong is reportedly a part of the travelling squad, and is in line to make a rare first-team appearance on Monday.
Fortunately for Solskjaer though, all of his key defenders and midfielders are available. In the middle of the park, there is no looking past Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, with Pogba, in particular, looking to put the frustrations of the PSG tie behind him.
Much of the back four should be retained as well, although Phil Jones might get the nod to partner Victor Lindelof, while Luke Shaw and Ashley Young ought to continue as the full-backs. David de Gea will play for the first time in the FA Cup.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): de Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic; Sanchez, Pogba, Rashford; Lukaku
- This will be the 14th FA Cup tie between Chelsea and Manchester United – the Blues have triumphed in each of the last four, including last season’s final.
- In fact, Chelsea could become the first team to eliminate Manchester United in five consecutive FA Cup meetings.
- Manchester United have eliminated the FA Cup holders 10 times, more than any other side in the competition’s history. They last did so in 2011-12 against Manchester City.
- Manchester United are looking to reach the FA Cup quarter-final for the fifth consecutive season. The last did so in as many campaigns between 1961-62 and 1965-66. Meanwhile, Chelsea are hoping to qualify for the stage for the fourth successive term, reaching the final in each of the last two.
- The last side to eliminate both Arsenal and Chelsea in the same FA Cup campaign were Manchester United in 1998-99, while the last team to do in away games were Millwall in 1994-95.
Player to Watch
It has been just over a year since Alexis Sanchez swapped clubs with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but the Chilean has only managed to produce a handful memorable performances. But, bar his match winning cameo against Newcastle United a few months ago, there has been very little to fondly remember Alexis’ season by.
The latest setback came against PSG, wherein he failed to create a single chance or take aim at the goal even once in 45 minutes on the pitch. Manchester United can ill afford a repeat of that performance when they face Chelsea, and it looks like the chances are running out for the former Arsenal superstar.
It is make or break time for Alexis Sanchez, and who knows, it might just end up bringing the best out of the out of sorts Chilean forward.
Chelsea 1-2 Manchester United
A week ago, Manchester United would have been the resounding favourites for the tie, not just due to their form under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but also because the caretaker manager had all of his key players available to him. Now though, his unbeaten streak has been snapped, while Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard are out of the game.
Chelsea though, hardly provided much of an encouraging sign in their 2-1 win over Malmo FF, despite the fact that they now have one foot in the Europa League Round of 16. But, with PSG exposing some of the chinks in United’s armoury, the Blues might fancy their chances, especially if Gonzalo Higuain can embark on his trademark ghosting runs off the defender’s shoulders.
But, Manchester City also exposed several problems in Chelsea’s defence, and Marcus Rashford’s directness could come of use here. And, with Paul Pogba seething from his dismissal against PSG, the Red Devils might have just about enough to edge Chelsea narrowly to make it to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Manchester United, mounting the pressure further on Maurizio Sarri, amid Zinedine Zidane and Laurent Blanc’s links with the Chelsea top job.