FA Cup match preview: Chelsea vs Manchester United
Stadium: Stamford Bridge
Referee: Phil Dowd
Kick-off: 5:00 PM (IST), Monday, 1st of April
Hot on the heels of a comfortable win over Sunderland, Manchester United travel to London to take on Chelsea in a sixth round replay of the FA Cup at the Bridge. Their hosts, who managed to force a replay coming from two goals down, have a stretch of five games in the next fourteen days and will be looking to kick-start it with a win, allowing them the chance to retain the trophy they won last year. Manchester City await the winners of this game in the more glamorous of the two semi-finals, with Millwall facing off against Wigan in the other. Even without the lure of progress in the competition, neither club will want to lose to the other especially after their encounters in the season thus far.
Chelsea: L D W W L
As has been the case throughout the season, Chelsea have been unpredictable of late; superb performances to see off European oppositions, and also to mount comeback wins, have been mingled with recent losses to teams like Southampton. The instability and Benitez’s statements about quitting at the end of the season have done little to affect their performances on the pitch, although the crowd being more supportive definitely seems to help. Statistically speaking, Chelsea have failed to score just once in their last six games and have 8 goals from their last four, meaning that scoring will likely not be an issue. With the return of John Terry to the squad, fans will hope that conceding too easily won’t be one either.
Manchester United: W L D W W
Having given up their two-goal lead after a dominant first half performance against Chelsea in the original fixture, United have recovered well to win both their following games without having to break into a sweat. More importantly, after conceding twice each in two consecutive games, the visitors’ defence has regrouped well to see off danger and resume the usual business of keeping clean sheets. The international break also boded well for the club from Manchester as their players did well, and Robin van Persie regained his touch with a set of goals for the Netherlands. With a much less congested fixture list than their opponents, you can expect them to put their best foot forward.
Chelsea: Oriol Romeu.
Manchester United: Phil Jones, Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher.
After turning the tide of the game when he was introduced as a substitute at the beginning of the second half, Eden Hazard will be looking to go one better and win it for his club this time around. He is another player who did well in the international fixtures, grabbing a goal in each of his two games for Belgium. The Hazard-Mata combination could prove to be a deadly one for the United back four to deal with.
While fellow striker Javier Hernandez has a knack for scoring against Chelsea, the Blues will do well to keep a watchful eye over Wayne Rooney. With ten goals in his last nine league starts and a pair of goals over the international break, Rooney has hit top gear at the right time and will be looking to get his team some more silverware. He was also rested for the game against Sunderland on Saturday, and will be fresh and raring to go.
An edgy fixture which might take longer than ninety minutes to be settled. While Chelsea have been patchy all season, especially in front of home fans, the boo boys have reduced in volume and they always seem to find their feet against United. United themselves have not been overly impressive this season, especially when RvP has been off colour, but have not needed to work too hard for their results. It might take a piece of individual skill to see this match go one way or the other.