Possibly the biggest test for Manchester United to stay in the hunt for The Double, Manchester United face a trip to Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Quarterfinal replay. Having lost a 2 goal advantage at Old Trafford, United were lucky not to be eliminated by a resurgent Chelsea side, buoyed by the attacking threats of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard. Find the best FA Cup ongoing offers to bet on this match.
United and Chelsea both had a contrasting warm-up to this tie. Having rested their major players for this tie, United warmed up with a comfortable 1-0 win at Sunderland, while Chelsea suffered a 2-1 defeat at Southampton.
Chelsea rested several of their key players against Southampton – The likes of David Luiz, Demba Ba and Ashley Cole did not feature at all while Eden Hazard and Ramires played a limited role. Gary Cahill, who has been influential at the back for Chelsea this season, could still be sidelined with a knee injury. With Chelsea facing a fixture overload in the coming week, they must use their resources carefully. However, the clash against United is one where you would expect them to put a full-strength XI, simply because they have the momentum from the earlier clash at Old Trafford, where they came back from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 and were lucky not to win the game. With their dominance in the FA Cup clearly highlighted – with 4 FA Cup titles in the last 6 editions and 7 overall, Chelsea will want to continue this good run. Juan Mata, as usual, will play a key role in Chelsea’s bid to progress.
Manchester United on the other hand will desperate to succeed in this competition, where they haven’t won the title since 2004. The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley, Nani, Ryan Giggs and Javier Hernandez could all feature in the starting XI after they were rested against Sunderland. Phil Jones could also make his comeback from the injury against Chelsea, and with Rafael injured, could be favoured for the right-back position. The fact that Jones can read the game better at right-back than Chris Smalling and has more to offer in the attacking sense than Smalling could see him favoured over Smalling. Michael Carrick played against Sunderland, but could play an important part against Chelsea as well. Don’t be surprised if he is benched or rested though, teams are never easy to predict – especially when they are Manchester United – such is the quality available at Sir Alex’s disposal.
With both teams possibly playing their strongest XI, it will be interesting to see how they shape-up. While both the teams prefer going with a 4-2-3-1 shape, their ability to adapt to various game situations is what sets them apart from the other teams.
Chelsea have limited striking options, and so Demba Ba is almost certain to start. How the United centre-backs handle him and the mazy runs and ping-throughs of Juan Mata will be crucial. This is where the role of Michael Carrick and his ability to read the opposition’s game becomes important. Carrick’s ability to track Mata’s run and also keep Hazard in check means he should start for Manchester United tomorrow. However, he featured against Sunderland, and also featured in the mid-week World Cup qualifier against San Marino, so he could also be absent tomorrow. Anderson can take his place, but he is obviously short of the energy and the tactical knowledge required to keep players like Mata and Hazard in check.
Chelsea’s another major threat is Ramires. His energy and box-to-box abilities make him a dangerous player to play against. Tom Cleverley could be featured to negate exactly this. We all saw in the second half at Old Trafford how Cleverley was hopelessly out of his usual game and Ramires dictated the tempo of the game. The introduction of Jon Obi Mikel gave Ramires more freedom to move forward and the excellence of Eden Hazard on the left was obvious, and this proved to be a game-changer.
To counter Hazard‘s threat, Phil Jones should be starting. The way he man-marked Ronaldo out of the Champions League tie at the Bernabeau is a testament to his ability of carrying the tasks assigned to him perfectly. He is fit again, and there is no reason why Sir Alex shouldn’t start him against Chelsea, given the fact that Rafael is now injured as well. Smalling at right-back is a poor option, as well all saw in the game against Reading, where United barely created any chances from the right.
- In the 166 times that United and Chelsea have faced each other competitively, United have won 72, drawn 49 and lost 45.
- Javier Hernandez has scored in 6 out of his 7 meetings with Chelsea. Expect him to play a crucial role tomorrow as well.
- In the 3 encounters between United and Chelsea this season, a staggering 18 goals have been scored, a 9 goal thriller in the Capital One Cup included.
- It has been 10 years since Chelsea were beaten in a FA Cup tie at Stamford Bridge, in 2003 against Arsenal.
- Manchester United were the last team to stop Chelsea from scoring at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup, beating them 2-0 in the FA Cup 6th round replay.
It will be a tough encounter – and how both the teams line-up, especially Manchester United – will be crucial. Chelsea’s impressive record at the Bridge means they hold the advantage, coupled with their comeback at Old Trafford. However, their loss at Southampton must have dropped a few heads. Manchester United have all but secured the 20th title, and will be focussed on the double. Spirits are high, and so I think United will just edge out Chelsea in this mammoth fixture, courtesy some magic from their bench.