Chelsea in another FA cup quarterfinal. One match from Wembley and two wins from a place in yet another FA cup final. That would be a somewhat unbelievable 5 in 7 year. As good as this sounds, we head into our clash with Manchester United with less confidence than in any of our other cup quarterfinals of the last eight years.
Our supporters usually savour these occasions, and it’s the same for any teams fans who reach this stage. You can smell Wembley way, and everyone seems to believe that their side can get a result however far fetched it may be. The fact that confidence among our fans is at such a low is a reflection of the current regime we find ourselves in under the guidance (I use that term loosely) of Rafa Benitez.
When was the last time we didn’t sell out our allocation for a match of this magnitude? Some unofficial sources say that we may only be taking just over half of the 6000 allocation. Granted the terrestrial TV coverage and resultant late kick off time have not helped, but that is not the sole reason.
The performance away in Bucharest on Thursday was a disappointing return to the laboured, toothless play of the last two months. Benitez did make five changes to the side that had beaten West Brom, but excuses of that nature are well worn by now. The fact that we played away on the Thursday and Manchester United were at home on the Tuesday also doesn’t help matters. Those expected to return to the starting 11 are Cole, Mata, (who played the last 25 minutes in Bucharest) Ramires, possibly Gary Cahill, and more importantly Demba Ba. If our approach play descends into the direct manor that it did in the second half on Tuesday, then at least he will give us half a chance of making it work. Ba also scored the winner on his last outing against West Brom.
As much as you wouldn’t have believed it from the usual embarrassing pandering of the press to Man Utd, they were on the back foot against Madrid before going down to 10 men on Tuesday. I am in no doubt what so ever that Mourinho would have masterminded his side’s victory if it had remained 11 a side. Before the red card, Mourinho had brought Kaka on in the ‘Mata’ role, moving Ozil out wide. Ozil had been dropping increasingly deeper, and Mourinho could see that getting a creative player between the united midfield and defence was the key to opening them up. Kaka quickly became influential, and couldn’t be dealt with. In this there is hope for us on Sunday as Mata is more than capable of doing the same to them.
It is worth looking at the positives for Chelsea, as there are perhaps more than you would think. Our last meeting with Manchester United in the FA cup was the final of 2007, a 1-0 victory after extra time courtesy of Didier Drogba. Our last FA cup-tie at old Trafford was that season’s semi final, a 2-1 victory for Chelsea against Blackburn Rovers. We have also beaten Manchester United in cup football this season, knocking them out of the league cup after our epic 5-4 win at Stamford Bridge.
Ferguson is likely to mirror our formation, 4-2-3-1. The key areas are likely to be the space between midfield and defence for both sides. If we can get Mata on the ball behind their deep midfielders, and hopefully pull their defence out of shape, then we have every chance. We won’t be able to do this if we play to slow in the build up, or we hit long balls forward. Likewise at the other end, Rooney has been key against us when we have lost against them in recent years, dropping off the centre forward to dictate play. Mikel and Lampard will need to be on form to deny him space in this area. Assuming Rooney is picked that is! Other issues defensively for us have been failure of our wingers to track opposition full backs when they attack, this is important as we can’t afford to have to pull Lampard or Mikel out of position to pick the likes of Evra up, as this then creates the space for United in midfield. It is also important for Mata to press their deeper midfielders when we don’t have the ball as well.
If you are still not confident, just remember that this is the FA cup, and anything can happen!
Come on the Chels!
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