United host Chelsea in the 2nd leg of the 2011 UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night, after coming away from Stamford Bridge a week earlier with a 1-0 victory in the bag.
A Wayne Rooney winner in the 24th minute in London, and the heroics of Edwin van der Sar ensured that Chelsea have to come to Old Trafford and fight for something, as both clubs desperately want that Semi Final place.
Rooney is likely to feature for the reds. His current two match ban is only applicable to domestic matches, and by missing the victory over Fulham at the weekend, here’s hoping that the frontman comes in fresh and sharp, ready to do the business once again. His finish last week was down to the coolness and intelligence of messrs Carrick and Giggs, but he’s finding some goalscoring form now, and we may need to bag one or two in this one.
United also have a strong midfield again. Anderson came through 76 minutes for the reds at the weekend against Fulham, and Sir Alex Ferguson was also able to rest Michael Carrick and Ji Sung Park, who formed an effective partnership last week at The Bridge. With Nani, Valencia, Giggs and Scholes all fully fit. He is likely to field a five man midfield, in an attempt to stifle the Chelsea in the centre of the park, and protect the valuable lead. Only Darren Fletcher is thought to be unavailable, along with long term absentee Owen Hargreaves.
I believe that Ancellotti would have been tempted to play all three of his big name strikers against us with them having to come to us already a goal down. However, in doing so that would mean Essien, Lampard and Mikel are severely out numbered in midfield – and if Chelsea’s midfield can’t make a mark on a game, they aren’t effective.
Ferdinand and Vidic should be the central pairing at the back for the reds, and with Torres under pressure to perform and grab a goal – something he’s failed to do in 648 Chelsea minutes of football, he may make way. A partnership of Anelka and Drogba upfront would be a more reliable selection. In Ancellotti’s mind will be the way Torres used to cause problems for Vidic when he was at Liverpool, although he’d be best to remember that Chelsea and Liverpool’s styles are worlds apart, and Chelsea will only involve him a fraction that Liverpool used to do when he was there.
One bonus for the reds, which I think made us favourite before the 1st leg, is that David Luiz is cup tied. He’s a great player, someone I’d describe as a creative defender, and they’re not just weak at the back when he’s not there – they’re limited in the first two thirds of the pitch. They seem to have become heavily reliant on their January signing, and without him look ordinary – as they did leading up to Christmas.
Other than that, Chelsea have a fully fit squad to choose from, Yossi Benayoun and Alex returning from injury at the weekend coming on from the bench in the victory over Wigan. Whether they’ll be fit enough to have an impact in this one remains to be seen, but Chelsea will be hoping they might help them dance their cares away and have worries for another day if they make an appearance.
John O’Shea looks set to retain his place at right back with Rafael seemingly missing out. Alex Ferguson said that there may be hope that he can make the starting line up, but it’s looking not that promising.
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