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Champions League preview: Chelsea versus Manchester United

April 6, 2011

The image of John Terry slipping when striking what could have been the Champions League winning penalty will stay with the England captain until he lifts the trophy. The 2008 final in Moscow against tonight’s opponents, Manchester United, remains the closest that Terry and Chelsea have got to lifting the top trophy in European football.

Only just in the quarter-final stage of the competition, the eventual winners of tonight’s tie will more than likely find themselves in the unfamiliar position of being the only English side in the semi-finals of the tournament, such is Tottenham’s second leg mission against Real Madrid.

Much has been made of the apparent revenge mission that Chelsea find themselves on tonight but for me, that doesn’t appear the case. If Chelsea and Manchester United were based in different countries, then obviously a first European meeting of the pair in three seasons would be a chance for the London to banish the ghosts of Moscow but given that they lock horns regularly in the Premier League makes that point moot.

Of course, Chelsea will want to win the tie and ideally the trophy but there isn’t anything to prove. There isn’t a score to settle.

Who’s warming the bench?

One of the big talking points about the game will be which of strikers end up starting the game on the bench.

In Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez, Sir Alex Ferguson has two men in excellent form throughout this season. Hernandez has been a revelation in a red shirt, making a much bigger contribution than anyone could have predicted and that has seen him keeping Berbatov, the top scorer in the Barclays Premier League so far this term, out of the side as last. Only one of the two can partner Wayne Rooney up front and in truth, there is always a chance that Ferguson will elect to pack his midfield for the trip to Stamford Bridge.

For Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti has to pick between three strikers that have really struggled to hit the back of the net as of late. Including Didier Drogba’s equaliser against Stoke on Saturday, the Ivorian, Nicolas Anelka and £50 million January signing Fernando Torres have contributed four goals for Chelsea since February 1st. Torres is yet to score for his new club but could be deployed from the start as he usually proves to be more than a handful for United’s captain Nemanja Vidic.

At the back, both teams picked themselves. David Luiz is cup-tied, meaning Ancelotti is likely to select Branislav Ivanovic alongside his captain with Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole in the full-back roles. Sir Alex Ferguson will pick whoever he can. Rio Ferdinand is reported to be in contention after two months out with a calf injury but a Champions League quarter-final may be too much too soon.

Predicted line-ups

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Mikel, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba, Torres

Manchester United: van der Sar, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Carrick, Gibson, Scholes, Nani, Valencia, Rooney

Key Players

Branislav Ivanovic – Chelsea

In the league meeting between the two clubs, David Luiz was a stand-out performers even if he did tread a fine line with some of his challenges. The Brazilian has slotted in seamlessly alongside John Terry and immediately struck up a sound understanding. Ivanovic has been more recently deployed at right-back and the Serbian will really need to concentrate and defend well at the heart of the Chelsea defence.

Michael Carrick – Manchester United

Critics of Michael Carrick have traced back to the 2009 Champions League final as the game that started his downfall. Having previously looked assured and confident anchoring the United midfield, the Englishman spent much of the final chasing his Barcelona counterparts and has not been the same man since. Without Darren Fletcher alongside him, he struggles to impose himself on a game. The Scotsman remains unavailable and that leaves a lot of responsibility on Carrick sitting in front of his back four.

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 12, 2011 9:45 am

    Carrick playing against Barcelona was a tough game for him and so is for any player in the world – Barcelona play divine soccer. I am United fan, but no team plays near the Catalans quality!

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