CHELSEA v/s MANCHESTER UNITED
BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
VENUE – Stamford Bridge
KO – 14:00 GMT
REFEREE – Mark Clattenburg
Chelsea and Manchester United had contrasting fortunes in the Champions league. While United labored to a win against Portuguese outfit Braga, Chelsea were defeated by a scintillating performance from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. Manchester United again conceded first like 8 games earlier this season which is becoming a worrying habit for Ferguson. This problem will turn into a disaster against a better attacking team. Chelsea have plenty of problems of their own. They have been flying high in the domestic arena but Europe has been a bit tricky. They were thumped in the UEFA Super cup and in midweek were beaten by a much more potent Shakhtar team. Form though, goes out of the window in these high octane matches. Both teams have a world class attacking force and this match promises to be a high scoring entertaining fest.
Chelsea have been in top form in the league this season. They have set the early pace and already have established a 4 point gap at the top of the table. Roberto di Matteo is keen on maintaining an attacking approach for his side. New signings Hazard and Oscar have earned rave reviews for their performances for the club. Hazard has taken the league by storm and is on top of the assists alongside teammate Juan Mata. Oscar performed brilliantly against Juventus in Europe scoring two magnificent goals. They are ones for the future to be fair, though with Lampard ruled out, Oscar will have an important role to play. The Italian will be looking to extend the club’s lead at the top and there is no better way than beating your nearest rivals. The Londoners have been a very good attacking side this season but their defensive frailties have been exposed in Europe and Matteo will be keen on avoiding the same fate against Manchester United.
Manchester United fans always say “We do things the HARD way”. This season has been one of the best examples of the Red Devils doing it the hard way. 8 times out of 12 the club has conceded the first goal in the match and has to come from behind. In midweek against Braga some inept defending meant that they had to come back from a 2 goal deficit. The striking force at the manager’s disposal is capable of getting them out of any tricky situation but clubs like Chelsea will not let United come back from 2 goals down. United have to start matches from the first half rather than waking up when the opposition puts the ball in the back of the net. Too many times have the defending been of pub level and the opponents have taken full advantage. One of the things to come out of the match in Europe was that Michael Carrick will never be a decent central defender. He should only be used as an emergency option. The English midfielder was easily given the turn around by the Eder, the Braga striker who set up his teammate to score the team’s second goal. The return of Ferdinand will ensure that Carrick is deployed at his natural position. Javier Hernandez’s brace has opened up the options for Ferguson as he can use all four strikers without any problem of drop in quality. While Rooney, Welbeck and Persie combined to deadly effect last weekend while Hernandez, Persie and Rooney shined in the Champions League with Hernandez scoring a brace.
Chelsea – Chelsea’s success in the Champions League last season was built on a strong defensive unit. This season though, Roberto di Matteo has tried a completely different approach. Essien has been sent on-loan to Real Madrid, while Drogba who spearheaded the attack last season is now plying his trade in China. The likes of Hazard and Oscar have joined the club as the manager looks to adopt an attacking approach this season. Still relatively new to the players, they were destroyed spectacularly by Atletico Madrid in the Super cup. Mata who inspired them last week against Spurs is one of the first names on the team sheet. Terry, who has been surrounded with controversies in the recent past, will partner David Luiz in the centre of defense with Ramires shielding them. Ivanovic and Cole have made the full back positions their own. Torres who has yet had a disappointing season will be looking to make amends against the Red Devils. Lampard, one of the most consistent performers in the league has been ruled out with a calf injury and he will be a big miss for the Londoners.
Manchester United – Even though the club’s defensive problems on the injury front seem to have eased up, the defensive problems on the field still persist. United have conceded first in 8 of the 12 matches this season which is a worrying statistic for Ferguson. To be fair, Carrick and Evans have hardly played together, add to that equation Alex Buttner, the summer recruit who was making his Champions league debut and you have a communication disaster. Ferdinand and Evra, both rested in midweek will probably be reinstalled in their defensive positions. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are probably a week away from first team action which means Rafael will start at right back. The midfield is a bit of a conundrum as the partnership of Scholes and Carrick is the most experienced but given Chelsea’s fast paced attack that may be a problem which might prompt the manager to use the returning Darren Fletcher. If the diamond formation is deployed by Ferguson then the duo of Valencia and Nani might have to sit on the bench. Shinji Kagawa has been ruled out for 3-4 weeks with a knee injury suffered against Braga. Javier Hernandez’s brace in midweek gives the manager a welcome headache as he has four strikers, each of whom are capable to lead the attack.
Chelsea – Juan Mata– While new signing Eden Hazard may have taken all the plaudits this season, the Spaniard Mata has been the talisman for the London club. Last week’s turnaround against North London rivals Spurs was down to a superlative performance from Mata.
He was the pivot around whom the Chelsea wheel performed so brilliantly. Manchester United has been at sixes and sevens defensively this season and Chelsea will look to Mata to exploit that weakness which he is very much capable of doing.
He has carried the same form to his new club and Stamford Bridge will bring good memories to the striker. His partnership with Rooney and Welbeck was very heartening to see and he will be a very frightening proposition for the London club who were dominated by the Turkish side in midweek.
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