FA Cup: Man United vs Chelsea - A tactical preview
As the dust of the European battles settles, it is time for some blockbuster English action, with the weekend promising matches of flavour in the FA cup and Premier league. Both, at the bottom and top of the table, this is a big week in English football.
The pick of the fixtures is undoubtedly Manchester United and Chelsea facing off at the Theater of Dreams. Like most fixtures, this fixture has a history too. Chelsea have not won an FA cup game at Old Trafford since 1963. And while ‘interim’ manager Benitez will be looking to write a new record, the onus really is on the Mancunians to come back with their heads held high from the European disaster.
Chelsea meanwhile lost to lowly Bucharest and will look to restore the equilibrium they seem to have long lost now. With the personal enmity between Ferguson and Benitez an interesting subplot, the game could go down as one to remember. Let us look at the possible lineups and tactics that could be employed by these teams-
Probable line-up: Cech, Cahill, Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole, Lampard, Ramires, Hazard, Mata, Bertrand, Ba
The selection of Bertrand on the right wing could be a good move because of the attacking nature of United’s full backs. He could switch wings with Hazard and keep a check on the wings on both the sides. Luiz is at his best alongside Lampard, but I believe Benitez will not start Terry against the pace of Van Persie or probably Hernandez. Lampard would need to be at his very best. With no Drogba upfront, Ba would have to take on his FA cup goalscoring exploits.
Probable line-up: De Gea, Vidic, Evans, Rafael, Evra, Carrick, Cleverley, Valencia, Rooney, Nani, Hernandez
United have a more flexible line-up and playing style than that of Chelsea. They can play possession along with Carrick and Cleverly with Rooney dropping deep, or they could play a more direct game with Hernandez’s ability of knocking the balls down for Rooney. If required, they could become the more orthodox 4-4-2. The onus will be on the United fullbacks to make sure that their counterparts don’t have much effect. While at the same time, Evra and Rafael must look to subdue Hazard who can switch wings easily. Ideally, Cleverly should be deployed as marker to Mata so that he can be forced out of position. Van Persie, who had looked off the pace against Madrid, should get a rest.
Cleverly-Mata: The Spaniard’s ability to influence play is awesome. He is probably the best number 10 in Europe and has to be stopped. If he is, United have a great chance.
Rooney-Lampard: With Rooney most probably the number 10 on the red side, it would be the job of Chelsea’s holders to rein him in. If Rooney dominates the match, United will win.
Valencia-Cole: Both love getting forward, and Valencia can get back too. Cole is going to have a huge role in the match. If he nullifies the threat from Valencia, Chelsea will breathe easily. Or he may come back to haunt them as he did earlier in the season.