The last time that United won a Premier League fixture at Stamford Bridge David Beckham was in the starting line up and Fabien Barthez was in goal. We’re due a league win, right?
Chelsea won’t be helped by the fact that Ashley Cole won’t be protecting the left flank from an on-fire Antonio Valencia and John Terry is out injured. Like or loath him one can’t escape the fact that he’s a very capable defender and will be sorely missed by Chelsea. What won’t be missed, however, is a soap-like pre-match drama of ‘will he, won’t he’ regarding Rio and Terry shaking hands. The racism row in football is becoming such a large issue that it’s fast becoming a worrying trend. Fans and players alike being charged with offences is right but it worries and upsets me that incidents are still occurring in 2012.
Anyway, back to the football, the reason you’re reading this!
Chelsea appear to be short of the aforementioned Terry and Cole whilst Mikel and Ramires are ruled out also. Frank Lampard is in the squad but is rated at 50/50 after only just returning to full fitness. With Terry out, though, I fancy Lampard to start as Chelsea are in desperate need of leaders on the pitch in their race for fourth.
United, never short of an injured player or two, have a goalkeeping decision to make. With Lindegaard out Ferguson must decide whether to put de Gea in the pressure cooker of the Bridge or allow Ben Amos to try and keep another clean sheet after his outing against Stoke. Judging by Ferguson’s recent defence of the young Spaniard I think de Gea will start. His talent is not to be questioned but he must start commanding his area a little more. Surely this is something that could be worked on on the training ground?
In front of him the defence is looking much fitter and healthier. We’re, obviously, still without Vidic but Smalling, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evra, Evans, Fabio are all fit and in the squad. Ferdinand and Evans are likely to partner up in the centre with Evra a sure starter at left back. Right back will be an interesting selection between the da Silva twins and Smalling.
The midfield is looking much better too. Giggs and Scholes continue to roll back the years and Carrick is playing as well as I’ve ever seen him. Add to that the fact that Pogba played so admirably during his Stoke cameo and Cleverley and Young are back and Ferguson is blessed with the kind of selection headaches that all managers dream of. I think that Valenica will start out right with Nani on the other flank. I personally believe that it’s a bit soon for Cleverley to return to a starting position but he may well make the bench. The same goes for Ashley Young.
Up front Rooney will start, if fit, and I fancy Hernandez to start alongside him. His proven knack for getting goals and his pace up against a defence short of Terry and Cole could cause a real problem.
Prediction? Needing a win after City’s 3-0 victory over Fulham, I’m tipping United to win by two goals. This is pretty confident but I just feel that Chelsea are a little short of something this season and their depleted defence will have a big impact on this game.
Chelsea (from): Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Chalobah, Hutchinson, Bertrand, Romeu, Essien, Lampard, Mata, Malouda, Meireles, Torres, Sturridge, Lukaku, Turnbull.
Man United (from): De Gea, Amos, Smalling, Rafael, Ferdinand, Evra, Evans, Fabio, Fryers, Cole, Carrick, Cleverley, Scholes, Pogba, M Keane, Valencia, Park, Giggs, Young, Nani, Rooney, Welbeck, Berbatov, Hernandez.