Its crunch time in the Premier League with Chelsea coming to Old Trafford to face a Manchester United side somewhat shell-shocked from a last minute defeat against Bayern Munich, a fact the Blues will be well aware of and will of course look to exploit, not to mention the injury to a certain striker.
A tough match will ensue as the top two in the Premier League go head to head on Saturday afternoon. Manchester United will look to their defensive record at home, conceding only 9 goals in the league, but this will no doubt be tested by Chelsea who coincidentally have the most potent attack, scoring 82 goals in the 32 league games played so far.
The United line up should remain fair consistent with recent weeks, as per usual Edwin van der Sar will take up his place between the sticks. In front of the Dutchman will be Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, with Patrice Evra on the left and either Gary Neville or Rafael on the right. The club captain has been in reasonable form but has played the last nine matches, so it could be time he gets a breather.
John O’Shea could also be in line for a seat on the bench after returning to training but Wes Brown is still out with a metatarsal injury.
Of John O’Shea, Ferguson said, “John O’Shea and Owen Hargreaves have trained very well with the first team.
“They are not far away and I may use one of them as substitute tomorrow and the other on Wednesday.
“John O’Shea in particular has done a lot of work. The boy has come on terrifically well in the last two or three weeks.
“If I include one tomorrow and one on Wednesday it will give them the confidence that they are back.
“That is what they need.”
You did read correctly Owen Hargreaves may well be back on the bench come Saturday. It is likely he won’t get on the pitch but if selected as a substitute his confidence will be boosted no end.
A five-man midfield will again be deployed, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher and Ji-Sung Park should line up in the middle, with the South Korean acting as a defensive attacking midfielder assigned the task of keeping Frank Lampard quiet, while offering support to the front players. Michael Carrick should be dropped after a number of ineffectual performances.
They will be flanked by Nani on the left and Antonio Valencia on the right.
Many of you may have read that Wayne Rooney is injured. He has minor ligament damage in his ankle but should be back in a couple of weeks. All this means, Dimitar Berbatov will lead the line against Chelsea, though Sir Alex Ferguson is confident the Bulgarian can cope,
“Berbatov’s form has come great at the right time,” the United boss said.
“It is always hard to leave a player of his ability out of important games, and I am sure he can thrive on the responsibility. He is experienced enough to be able to handle that.”
Expect also, to see some of Federico Macheda, Sir Alex has confirmed he will play a part in the coming weeks,
“He is a terrific talent and can certainly play a big part,” Ferguson said.
“He was sub at Bolton, he will be sub again tomorrow [against Chelsea] and he will be sub on Wednesday [against Bayern].”
Chelsea will be going into the match after having a full week to prepare and rest ahead of what could prove to be a title decider, though they do have injury worries of their own.
Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, Ricardo Carvalho and Jose Bosingwa are all still unavailable, while Branislav Ivanovic is out with a knee problem. Didier Drogba has recovered from a knee complaint and will start against the Champions.
Interestingly though, Chelsea do seem to play with a lot more vigour and freedom when the Ivorian is not in the side. He has not been part of the two seven goal thrashing Chelsea have dished out this season and having Nicolas Anelka up-front on his own frees Frank Lampard to get forward and score, something he does with alarming regularity. Something Carlo Ancelotti commented on:
“Lampard is a very dangerous midfielder,” stated Ancelotti. “It is difficult to block him because he is a very dynamic player and he gets into the box at the right moment.
“He is a midfielder who scores 20 goals every season and he is unique in that respect. I was surprised by him. I knew him but not with the timing into the box and that is his most important quality.”
Ominous for Chelsea is their coach Carlo Ancelotti who has won five of his last six meetings with Sir Alex Ferguson. While United have lost three of the four league games that have followed European away games this season.
The tightest of margins separate these two sides and if Chelsea win they will have their Premier League fate in their own hands once more. United will have to forget the defeat against Bayern quickly and move on as we are entering a critical stage of the season where complacency is not an option.
On a more positive note, for those worried about the loss of Wayne Rooney, United have won their last nine league games without Rooney so lets hope that trend continues tomorrow.
Prediction: 1-1 Draw
Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Neville; Nani, Scholes, Fletcher, Park, Valencia; Berbatov
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