Chelsea v United (1st Leg) Preview!
This Wednesday evening we return to Stamford Bridge. Having lost there (2-1) in the Premier League a few short weeks ago, Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that his side, in the Champions League Quarter-Final first leg, can keep it tight, possibly snatch an away goal and put us firmly in the driving seat for the second leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday 12th April.
With Rio Ferdinand unlikely to be available to start, at the heart of our defence, alongside Nemanja Vidic, it looks as if young Chris Smalling will be continuing at centre half.
Smalling has sprung to prominence as United have suffered an injury crisis in defence and the youngster is starting to understand how life is at Old Trafford.
Following the dramatic 4-2 win at Upton Park, Smalling gave an insight into the mood in the camp following the win and also a brief look towards the enticing fixture this Wednesday evening at Stamford Bridge, explaining,
"I`m starting to get a feel of this club`s never-say-die attitude."
"And I don`t think many other teams possess that."
"Everybody just sticks together. They were all over the moon in the dressing room afterwards."
"It shows how big this club is and the emphasis on never giving-up. I`m definitely fitting into that philosophy."
"Now it`s Chelsea and even when we played there in the league, they didn`t create too many chances."
"In the first half we dominated and we were hard done by to lose. We are going into Wednesday with a lot of confidence."
And so we should.
Chelsea Team News:
Chelsea enter this fixture with a relatively full squad. Our spies in London tell us that Benayoun and Alex, although fit, are a week or so away from a return. But the remainder are fit and, no doubt, keen to claim our scalp in this competition.
But, David Luiz who looked so assured against us in the recent league game and scored an excellent goal, isn`t available for selection having played for Benfica already this season in this tournament.
Viewing from afar, it looks as if Carlo Ancelotti`s biggest problem relate so this strike force. Who does he select? Didier Drogba looks to have hit a vein of form, scoring at the weekend as well as two for the Ivory Coast in midweek, whilst Fernando Torres has merely flattered to deceive. But, as we all know, Torres does have a good record against us, in his Liverpool days.
Here at Vital Manchester United we wouldn`t be too surprised if Chelsea were to line up as follows:-
Cech, Bosingwa, Terry, Ivanovic, Cole, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, Malouda, Drogba and Torres.
Player to watch: Petr Cech
Watching the giant Czech performing heroics to keep Stoke City at bay on Saturday on MOTD, I can`t help but wonder if, with Edwin van der Sar retiring, the answer to our keeping problems is staring us in the face.
United Team News:
Sir Alex Ferguson will be licking his lips at the prospect of returning to the dug-out for the Champions League trip to Stamford Bridge.
Although the tabloid press hints at a possible return for Rio Ferdinand we reckon that Sir Alex will stick with the duo that started at West Ham.
Edwin van der Sar missed the trip to Upton Park with a slight groin strain but is expected to resume his role between the posts.
Having packed the midfield at Upton Park and then having to alter his plans at half time, Sir Alex will be mulling over his tactics for the trip.
Will he go for a lone striker in the form of Rooney or will he be bold and opt for two up front?
(We`ll be offering more on potential team news tomorrow - tune in to view)
Player to watch: Wayne Rooney
After his hat-trick on Saturday, Wayne will be looking to continue his scoring on a ground where he netted the opening goal in the recent league encounter, which we lost. Not all Wayne`s memories of Stamford Bridge are good ones, he`ll never forget the broken metatarsal he suffered that affected his World Cup hopes back in 2006, perhaps a goal or two this time will ease that pain.
Match Facts & Stats
Nobody can fail to remember our last clash in this epic competition. On a rainy night in the Russian capital, Moscow, United beat Chelsea on penalties after the final had ended all square at 1-1.
Entering the penalty shoot-out Chelsea had a glorious chance to defeat us after Ronaldo had missed his attempt. But divine intervention, in the form of a slip, saw John Terry strike the post when he had only to net to create history.
This season, the clubs have played each other twice. United comfortably won the Community Shield, at Wembley, 3-1, but lost in the league, 2-1, a couple of weeks ago.
In these two legged affairs it is vitally important to keep things tight. Sir Alex Ferguson will be looking for his side to score a much-needed away goal, an away goal that can be so important come the second leg. The emphasis will be on Chelsea to try and score but then again the wily Italian, Carlo Ancelotti, knows that his side is perfectly able to get a result at Old Trafford if they keep it tight. We`d love to tip it to be a high-scoring affair but games like this rarely are, could this fixture prove to be the exception? It`s a very hard one to call but I`m going for United to go into the second leg with a narrow 1-0 lead but with the tie very much alive still.
Next up for United is a home fixture, this Saturday, with Fulham.