Tonight sees what could be the biggest game and title decider for the 2010/11 season of the Barclays English Premiere League. Its Chelsea versus Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. It’s the day United win the League.
The fixture was originally supposed to take place in mid-December last year, but was postponed due to unrelenting snow and bad teeth of English mooiness (ok maybe not so much that last bit). The last time that Chelsea and Manchester United clashed, The Red Devils emerged victorious with a comfortable Community Shield win at Wembley, with Antonio Valencia, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez amongst the scorers.
The match starts at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea sitting 15 points behind league leaders and best team in the World Manchester United. In the greater scheme of things- a victory for United would end all hopes of Chelsea hanging onto the title for this year as well as put the Red Devils 7 points clear of closest rivals Arsenal before they even had an opportunity to kick a ball in their next fixture. This is title decider in many ways with United still having to go to Liverpool to destroy some scousers.
As far as Chelsea goes Torres hasn’t really delivered much since switching over from Liverpool with The Blues struggling to play both Drogba and Torres in the same team. Both these strikers have a similar style and enjoy leading the line, with neither capable of dropping back to pick up the ball and make supporting runs in the same way that Anelka does. The Chelsea midfield has also been devoid of all creativity in recent times with most games boiling down to a full physical battle in the middle of the park for control of the ball. If the full backs are halted The Blues tend to struggle in attack as was seen in the recent Liverpool victory over Chelsea. They need to drag the United centre backs out wide if they have any hope of getting Essien and Lampard into the opposing box.
United started a horrendous run of fixtures with a 4-0 away win against Wigan, although to be honest be we were saved on two occasions by the brilliance of Edwin van der Sar. Smalling is looking to be an excellent acquisition, putting in quality performances alongside the goliath-like Vidic in the absence of the perpetually injured Rio Ferdinand. Bar Paul Scholes, the United midfield is really lacking creativity and it is going to need an exceptional display from the 17 season veteran alongside Fletcher to make sure that play is switching with enough speed to send the Chelsea defence reeling. This is by far going to be the biggest test of Manchester United title credentials this season.
Chelsea will attempt to overrun midfield to stifle any creativity from the United wingers, its going to be a physical battle, no doubt. The Red Devils will need to get the ball to their wings at every opportunity and hope that the leading goal assist holder, Nani will be able to conjure up some Portuguese magic. Fletcher’s energy in midfield will be vital in stopping the brilliant Frank Lampard from having an influence.
I sincerely hope that Fergie ditches the cautious approach and goes with a traditional 4-4-2 with Berbatov and Rooney upfront. Expect Chelsea to go with a diamond shape.
Im going with a 2-1 to United on this one. It’s going to be a cracker and I will be firmly glued to the screen screaming obscenities at Kreg while we win the league.
My probable line-ups:
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Lampard; Anelka, Torres, Malouda.
Manchester United: Van der Sar; O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Nani, Fletcher, Scholes, Giggs; Berbatov, Rooney.
Some interesting facts:
- Manchester United have not won at Stamford Bridge in the league since April 2002 when they secured a 3-0 victory courtesy of goals by Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
- Currently on loan at Sampdoria, Federico Macheda was the last Manchester United player to score for the Red Devils against Chelsea in the league.
- Manchester United’s last league win over Chelsea came over two years ago, in January 2009, when Nemanja Vidic, Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov secured a 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
- If Dimitar Berbatov scores on Tuesday he will notch his 20th league goal of the season, his previous best was 15 for Spurs in 2007-08.
- Manchester’s United victory at Wigan was the first time this season they have won by more than one goal away from home in the league.
- Of the 36 meetings between the two sides in Premier League history, Chelsea have won 12, United 10 with the sides sharing 14 draws.
- Fernando Torres has yet to open his account for the Blues but has scored three goals for Liverpool against United.
- Since taking over the club in 2003 Roman Abramovich has never witnessed a United victory at Stamford Bridge.
- Chelsea have failed to score in their last two Premier League games, against Fulham and Liverpool.
- Nicolas Anelka is the joint top scorer in the Champions League with seven goals (alongside Mario Gomez and Samuel Eto’o) but has scored only six in the Premier League
And to end off I figured I’d include a little tune that you’ll hear coming from the United fans who make the trip to London to see the season’s biggest game go down-
Chelsea, are you listening? You’d better keep our trophy glistening. We’re coming back today, to take it all away… Walking in a Fergie-wonderland…