Chelsea vs United is live on Sky Sports HD 2 this evening kicking off at 7.45pm. Click here to find out more.
As much as we look forward to these games, the big ones that help define the season, any trip to Stamford Bridge is usually met with a feeling of dread. Whilst it was amazing to see Chelsea’s first team give a Guard of Honour to Dong, Lee and Eagles a few years ago, a win is a fairly elusive thing for us at that place. You have to go back almost 9 years for our last win there, which was in the days of Barthez, Blanc and Butt. It’s forever ago.
Of course, records are there to be broken and we have to beat them at some point, it’s just hard to go in to these games with that belief, regardless of form.
Chelsea have been poor for months now, whether they’ve been winning or losing, with the players they have relied on for so long certainly looking the wrong side of 30 now. Didier Drogba looks like he couldn’t be arsed and Frank Lampard hasn’t even managed many deflected goals. If ever there was a time they were there for the taking, it’s now, but a couple of things may stand in our way.
First of all, our away form is shocking. Even when we’ve managed to pick up results on the road, it’s hard to remember an away performance where we were impressed with what we saw. Sir Alex Ferguson has been trying out different formations and different combinations of players but has really struggled to get it right. We’ve often seen Wayne Rooney play on the left, which just hasn’t worked, and our midfield three getting overrun by their opponents, regardless of who they are. We’ve been crying out for someone who can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and drag our players through.
Also, Fernando Torres is now on their books, and despite not being a Chelsea player when this game was originally scheduled, will play against us anyway. It’s been a while since Torres had a really good game against us, probably that awful 4-1 back in 2008, but we know what he’s capable of. He’s scored against us plenty of times and has given both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand a hard time whilst in the Liverpool shirt. Torres has been poor for a while though, which worries me all the more. The headlines are already being written, with it being almost too good to be true for some that Torres would finally find form against Manchester United, of all clubs.
The hope is Dimitar Berbatov was left out of the starting line-up at the weekend, making way for Javier Hernandez, so he would be rested for tonight’s game. This would mean he would start up front with Rooney on the left and Nani on the right. There’s no way the manager will go with 442 but it’s hard to deny that Rooney’s strengths are wasted on the wing, regardless of his less than impressive goalscoring form in any position this season. If Park Ji-Sung was fit, we might have seen Berba left out but with Antonio Valencia still injured and Ryan Giggs missing the last couple of games through injury, we’re hardly spoilt for choice in our attacking positions.
Chris Smalling has a further opportunity to prove his worth after great performances since Rio Ferdinand’s injury. This might mean Rafael da Silva is again sacrificed at right back for the experience of John O’Shea to support Smalling. You’d like to think Rafael is a more attacking option ready to come on, like Chicharito, if things aren’t going are way. Whilst I’d like to see both of them on the pitch, I’d far rather us not need the extra attacking element.
Last year at Stamford Bridge we controlled the game and it would be lovely to think we could do the same again. Scholes was poor against Wigan and is seemingly in two minds about signing an extension. You’d hope Sir Alex would exercise his brilliant man-management skills here and give Scholes the belief that we need him to boss the midfield in this big game.
This will likely be a tight one and I’d never rule United out of winning a game but even though it would obviously mean dropped points, a draw wouldn’t be the worst result here. Come on reds!
Chelsea vs Manchester United is live on Sky Sports HD 2 this evening kicking off at 7.45pm. United’s next four games are all available in HD through Sky, click here to find out more.