Teams: Manchester United v Chelsea Venue: Old Trafford Referee: Phil Dowd Competition: Barclays Premier League Last Match: Benfica 1 – 1 Man United Kick Off: 16 00 on TV on Sky Sports HD
Following a strategic Champions League performance in Portugal on Wednesday, the Reds recommence their Premier League campaign against Roman Abramovich’s Chelski side.
Having rested some of our star performers this season (in Anderson, Young and Nani) against Benfica, the Red Devils should be refreshed and ready to resist Chelsea’s challenge.
Although results at this stage of the season are rarely definitive, another win against one of our main rivals will help propel us into the driving seat as we confidently continue our challenging start to the season.
Despite returning to training this week, Danny Welbeck is not in the squad.
Having been left out against Benfica “as a precaution”, Rio Ferdinand is expected to return to the match having recovered from a slight hamstring strain.
Darron Gibson and Tomasz Kuszczak are in the squad but it may be their last, as the club look to offload them on loan.
In between the sticks, David De Gea is a certainty to start (injury permitting) according to Sir Alex Ferguson, despite Lindegaard’s awesome performance in Lisbon on Wednesday.
In front of the Spanish stopper, I expect Chris Smalling to be reinstated at right back, having been rested following a strenuous international break. Providing less flair but more solidity than Phil Jones, I think Chris will dispose the 19 year-old of his place out wide because of the fact that Jones’ energy and enthusiasm is better used in the middle where his persistent forays up field are well protected by Michael Carrick’s pragmatic approach to the game.
In the middle of defence, Rio Ferdinand is expected to return but Jonny Evans may find himself out of the team after an indifferent performance against Benfica’s Paraguayan forward, Oscar Cardozo, leaving the youthful Phil Jones to step in. Similarly, Anderson is expected to return to the middle of the park, with Darren Fletcher making way.
Out wide, Ashley Young is sure to return on the left but Valencia and Nani are both in contention to start on the right. Although Nani is more match fit than the Ecuadoran and fits better into our fluent front four, Valencia’s systematic domination of Ashley Cole last season must not be forgotten.
Up front, it seems a full gone conclusion that Rooney will partner Hernandez up front, especially considering that the Mexican has scored 3 goals in 5 games against the Blues and that Rooney has played more games against them (21) for United than anyone else.
Predicted Line Up
David de Gea has made the most saves in the Premier League this season (30).
United have set a new Premier League record of 17 consecutive home wins.
This will be the 162nd meeting between the sides. Manchester United have won 70, Chelsea 44 and there have been 47 draws.
Wayne Rooney has scored eight league goals this season – it took him until 2 April last season to reach the same milestone.
The Blues have only kept one clean sheet in their last eight league games.
One To Watch- Daniel Sturridge
After initially failing to live up to the expectations of his controversial move to Chelsea, Sturridge finally backed up all his talk last season during an explosive loan spell at Owen Coyle’s Bolton side – scoring eight goals in 12 games, the young Englishman showed his appetite for a goal and is now a key figure in Chelsea’s side (having been suspended for the first three games).
One of Chelsea’s younger stars, Daniel has been keen to defend the squad’s demographics in recent weeks:
A lot is being said about Manchester United at the moment but Chelsea have a lot of exciting youngsters too, you just have to look at the kind of players we’ve signed over the summer in Juan Mata, Oriol Romeu, Romelu Lukaku, who are aged between 18 and 23, while there are others already at the club like Josh McEachran, David Luiz, Ramires and myself.
Key Clash- Juan Mata v Chris Smalling
Seemingly a rich man’s Joe Cole, southern David Silva and Spanish Tom Cleverley all at the same time, Mata has had an excellent start to his Chelsea career by all accounts. Blessed with great technical ability and vision, it seems as if he could be the centre piece of Chelsea’s side for years to come.
However, on Sunday, the Spanish international is likely to come up against up his toughest opposition yet (after Bardsley, Ollson and Whitbread) in the form of United’s 6ft 4″ Chris Smalling. Rested after a busy international break, Chris has been in great form and will relish the challenge that the diminutive Spaniard will face having totally silenced the galloping Gareth Bale already this season.
My Prediction- Man United 3 – 1 Chelsea
Even though Sir Alex’s midweek reshuffle may have disrupted the rhythm of recent weeks, I am confident that the recuperation period afforded to those players rested will allow us to continue our impressive form against Andres Villas Boas’ resilient Chelsea team.
Holding the psychological edge after last year’s demolition home and away, United shouldn’t be afraid to attack the Blues boldly with their expansive and exciting football which undoubtedly has the ability to dismantle Terry and Co.
Podcast #9- United v Benfica, Antonio Valencia, Chelsea and Listener’s Questions
This week’s episode features James alongside Nick, from ManUnitedYouth, and Tom, from The Faithful, as well as an interview with freelance football journalist, Miguel Delaney.
Alternatively, if you are on a mobile device, check out the ninth Can They Score podcast, released this Friday, HERE.