Chelsea can take a huge step towards the Holy Grail of the Champions League Trophy, with a home win against Manchester United, in front of, what will be a very fired up and partisan, Stamford Bridge crowd.
Chelsea’s home record against Man Utd is quite astonishing, considering the success the Red Devils have had, in the last ten years. United have failed to beat Chelsea in their last ten attempts at the Bridge, losing six and drawing four. However, United have their own amazing record, away in the Champions League. They have won nine of their last eleven, and this term they boost a record of three wins and one draw , without conceding, Chelsea have a similar record at home, this season, winning three and drawing one.
So, where will this intriguing tie be won or lost? The simple answer is in the mentality of the two coaches Carlo Ancelotti and Sir Alex Ferguson! Whoever can in-still, within their players, the need to play these two games as European matches will prevail. Ferguson will undoubtedly tell his players that the need to score an away goal, on Wednesday, is vital, whilst Chelsea will be told that a clean sheet is key.
Team news, for Chelsea makes good reading, with Ancelotti having a full available squad to pick from. Obviously, this is too early to see Benayoun or Alex but all others are fit and well, whilst David Luiz is cup-tied. I expect Chelsea to line up as follows; Cech, Cole, Terry, Ivanovic, Bosingwa, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Ramires, Drogba and Torres.
Manchester United have problems in defence, with Rio missing and no recognised right back. I expect Fabio will get the nod, making up a vulnerable looking back four with the ‘still learning Smalling’, the very nervous Vidic and the over-rated Evra. United will look to play on the counter with Nani and Valencia but I think Chelsea will over-run them in midfield. If Lampard, Essien and Ramires get hold of this match, we could have an exceptional night for the Blues. My concern is we over commit and therefore open the game up, which, indeed will make us vulnerable to the counter, so Ramires needs to hold back, at the right times.
All English ties in the Champions League are notoriously hard to predict. This could be a tight, cagey affair coming down to away goals, however I truly believe Chelsea will win on Wednesday by two clear goals. I would always back the champions to ‘win’ at OT with a two goal start!
A lot has been made of Chelsea’s revenge mission on Wednesday, for the travesty of the 2008 final and, to an extent, I believe this. Cech has openly spoken about it, whilst JT will be ‘up for it’ like never before. However, Chelsea have vast European experience and Ancelotti will keep minds focussed on ‘a two legged’ approach.
The two teams could line up with eight on each side, from that rainy night in Moscow, however the difference is Man Utd have lost Ronaldo and Tevez. I also believe Chelsea have bought specifically with Europe ‘in mind’. Since these two teams last met in Europe, only two of Fergie’s signings have cost more than £15 million, whilst only one of Chelsea’s has cost less! The weight of investment tells me Chelsea will contest the 2011 Champions Final.