Chelsea head to Old Trafford aiming to overturn a 1-0 deficit following their first-leg defeat against Manchester United in the Champions League Quarter-Finals. The weekend’s round of Premier League matches saw both sides take it easy, with United’s routine 2-0 win over Fulham easily eclipsing the Blues’ drab one-goal victory at home against Wigan. The excuse is that the two sets of players were saving themselves for Tuesday night’s game, which means we must be in for a barnstormer in Greater Manchester.
Wayne Rooney’s solitary strike was enough for United in last Wednesday’s game, while Chelsea were again blunt upfront and lifeless in the middle. The Wigan win again saw Carlo Ancelotti’s strikers fire blanks, with winger Florent Malouda netting a scrappy goal, and the Italian manager will be tempted to recall Nicolas Anelka to his Champions League line-up after he missed the first-leg, but featured in the weekend’s Premier League match. That would mean a place on the subs bench for the already much-maligned Fernando Torres, although Didier Drogba may also be fearing for his spot upfront, after scoring just two goals in his last fifteen games.
John Terry will return to the starting line-up after he was rested at the weekend, while Alex’s fifteen minutes against Wigan after returning from injury could mean that he is ready to feature alongside the captain, with Branislav Ivanovic possibly moving across to right-back and David Luiz ineligible for European action. Yossi Benayoun is also raring to go after his long lay-off, but should be forced to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
Manchester United will be able to call on full-back Rafael again, after he suffered a knee injury at the Bridge which threatened to rule him out for the Old Trafford return. His recovery will boost a United defence which has appeared stretched in recent weeks, but news from the club’s physio team suggests that there may also be comebacks for Wes Brown and John O’Shea, while the extremely talented Luis Antonio Valencia has recovered well from his spell on the sidelines, and should be a real threat on Tuesday.
Chelsea’s Youth Team battled past their United equivalents in the Youth Cup Semi-Final first leg on Sunday, with a 3-2 win setting them up nicely for a potential spot in the final. Now it’s time for the big boys to step up and do the same, after a frustrating first-leg fixture which saw United run out as 1-0 winners, rarely tested and seldom in trouble, apart from the scandalous decision at the end of the game which saw a blatant Chelsea penalty shout turned down.
This season has been far from ideal, and we’re all waiting for a huge performance to really emphasise who we are and what we are capable of. We have been backed up against the wall and the world is expecting us to lie down and let United trample all over us en route to the semi-finals. United can still win the treble, and with two out of three tournaments virtually theirs to lose, the Champions League is the only way we can rain on their parade and salvage our own disappointing campaign.
We need to conjure up the memories of controversial defeats, epic wins and momentous European nights and just be Chelsea again. The Chelsea we know we can be. The Chelsea who win things and soar through adversity. This isn’t a rallying call, it’s a downright plea:
Beat Manchester United.