We’re less than an hour away from kickoff of tonight’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg showdown with Chelsea, and I don’t know about you, but my cup runneth over with anticipation and excitement.
The task at hand is pretty simple. Thanks to last week’s 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge, all United need to do is, well, not lose. Even if it’s a 6-6 draw, it’ll see us through to the semis for the fourth time in the last five seasons, with the likely opponent being Schalke, who have quite the comfortable lead on Inter heading into the home leg of their tie tomorrow.
With the lineup that Fergie’s sending out tonight, it looks like we’re not only looking to protect that lead, but we should also have every opportunity to increase it, especially with Chelsea needing to score.
There aren’t any major surprises in United’s starting XI, though it is mildly surprising to see that Anderson isn’t even on the bench tonight, with Darron Gibson, Paul Scholes, and Antonio Valencia being our midfield options off of the bench.
So, how do I see the match playing out? I’d love to see us nab an early goal again, as it’d force Chelsea to all but abandon any defensive responsibilities and thereby open themselves up to get beaten a time or two on the counter, and I think we’ll try to accomplish that.
Both Berba and Valencia have an argument to be in the starting XI tonight, especially considering that they both scored on the weekend, but being able to turn to them in the second half will give us two fresh bodies to throw at Chelsea’s tired defense and kill the game and their hopes off.
It won’t be easy to weather the wave upon wave of Chelsea attacks that will undoubtedly come, but we did so last week, despite a few situations that were hairier than you’d like. But being at home, in our fortress, with the vast majority of the 76,000+ in attendance behind United, and with what’s at stake tonight…I feel 100% confident that we’ll do the damn thing, and we’ll do it damn well.
Prediction: Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
Manchester United: Edwin van der Sar; John O’Shea, Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra; Nani, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Park Ji-Sung; Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez
Subs: Tomasz Kuszczak, Wes Brown, Chris Smalling, Darron Gibson, Paul Scholes, Antonio Valencia, Dimitar Berbatov
Chelsea: Petr Cech; Branislav Ivanovic, John Terry, Alex, Ashley Cole; Ramires, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien, Florent Malouda; Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka
Subs: Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, Yossi Benayoun, John Obi Mikel, Yuri Zhrikov, Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou
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