Manchester United will know that the title is still theirs to lose when Chelsea come knocking this weekend as anything short of a defeat to Chelsea will virtually assure them of the Premier League title. Inspite of last week’s defeat to Arsenal, the Red Devils will be optimistic playing at Old Trafford at which they’ve dropped only 2 points all season. Being tied on goal difference, United know that they only need a draw to remain three points clear of Chelsea and with a visit to Blackburn followed by a visit from Blackpool to come, they will be quietly confident.
Chelsea meanwhile have recovered well from their mid-season slump and are currently on a run of 5 wins on the trot. Roman Abramovich will believe that the January transfer window transactions were profitable ones, in spite of Fernando Torres failing to hit the target with any frequency whatsoever. David Luiz has been a solid buy for the Blues’ defence and, having scored against United at Stamford Bridge, will be looking to score again.
Manchester United Form: W W W D W L
Chelsea Form: D W W W W W
Manchester United Team News:
Wayne Rooney has recovered from a minor hamstring strain and will be expected to start as Sir Alex deploys his favored ‘big game’ striker.
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, who were rested for the Champions League tie against Schalke will be expected to start at the heart of United’s defence.
Darren Fletcher, another of Sir Alex’s preferred players for the big games, is expected to miss this clash as he recovers from a virus.
Paul Scholes is suspended and will not be able to provide his wide array of passing support.
Chelsea Team News:
Jose Bosingwa is the only confirmed absentee with ample replacements available for Carlo Ancelotti to choose from.
Yuri Zhirkov is a doubtful starter, which leaves space for perhaps playing 2 forwards on the starting eleven.
Chelsea have had the better of Premier league encounters with Manchester United over the recent past, with Sir Alex left to rue some erroneous refereeing on multiple occasions. Earlier this season, Chelsea managed a 2-1 scoreline against the Red Devils and have stayed in good form since then. The importance of this game to the Premier League title race can only be further highlighted by the fact that 2 out of the 3 on-field referees are the same as the ones who officiated the latest FIFA World cup final. Howard Webb will be hoping that the players aren’t nearly as aggressive as the Dutch were back then and that he makes all the right calls. United, however, will be comfortable in their knowledge of the fact that they beat Chelsea over both legs of their Champions league tie and will be looking for an encore at Old Trafford with a chance to virtually seal the title early in front of their fans. The Theatre of Dreams couldn’t ask for a better match at the climax of what has been an unusually topsy turvy season.
Men to watch:
Wayne Rooney: If there is one man who has been through it all this season, it has to be this man. From putting in a transfer request to scoring a majestic winner over derby rivals Manchester City, he has done it all. Off late, however, he has been in the news for all the right reasons and will be hoping to hit the headlines again by repeating his scoring effort from the corresponding away fixture, earlier in the season. Is definitely a big game player and will be eager to prove that he deserves to be amongst the highest paid footballers in the world.
Frank Lampard: Often Chelsea’s go to man over the past few seasons, Frank Lampard has been relatively subdued this season, even missing out on a fair bit due to injury. 3 goals in his last 4 games, however, seem to suggest that he’s back on form. Can shoot from range and is a reliable man for dead-ball situations. The Blues will certainly need his midfield prowess if they are to get a result at Old Trafford.
Javier Hernandez: The little pea has been an absolute revelation this season, with an impressive scoring record, expertly timed bursts of pace and a killer finishing instinct to match. Might not necessarily start the match, but, even as a substitute, could make a huge impact on the game as he plays against the tiring legs of Terry and co. Will be hoping to cement his place in Old Trafford history early and further elevate his standing amidst the Old Trafford faithful.
This is one match you know you do not want to miss. Catch up with the action on ESPN at 8:30 PM!