What: English Premier League
Who: Manchester United vs Chelsea
When: Sunday 18th September, 2011, at 16:00 UK time
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
Following their destruction of long-time foes Arsenal at the end of August, league leaders and champions Manchester United have a chance to knock off another adversary when they prepare to welcome Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea, knowing that a valuable win at the Theatre of Dreams could be key in their title march, even at such an early point in the season.
While the club’s Premier League fortune appears to be smiling at them, United’s first Champions League match of the new season started on a sour note as the team was held to a 1-1 draw by Benfica at the Estadio da Luz in Portugal. Sir Alex Ferguson will be relying heavily on star striker Wayne Rooney to return to his impressive goalscoring run against Chelsea, and the veteran Scotsman even recently compared the England international to Brazilian legend Pele.
“Look at Pele. He was a very aggressive attacker as well who could look after himself. So can Rooney. There are similarities that way in strength, speed and determination”, declared Ferguson.
One good piece of news for United has been the return of Rio Ferdinand from injury. The defender was cleared to play against Benfica, but a technical decision meant that he remained in England. He should make a bow against Chelsea however.
A Thing of the Past
For their part, Chelsea travel up north full of hope after their 2-0 win over 2002 Champions League finalists Bayer Leverkusen, with David Luiz and Juan Mata getting on the scoresheet for the Blues. Should they enter the game in high spirits, then there is every chance that the Londoners can grab a positive result.
The biggest talking point around the Chelsea camp has been Fernando Torres. As if the Spanish forward’s noticeable dip in form was not a worthy enough subject of debate, his recently expressed negative comments about slow team-mates and play did not go down well at the club, putting the ex-Liverpool man under more pressure.
Torres claimed mistranslation and, luckily for him, provided assists for both Luiz and Mata against Leverkusen, but that may still not be enough to make the first eleven against the Red Devils according to Villas-Boas: “The problem is solved [with Torres].The investigation is over. We had a chat and the situation is solved. I have to make a decision. We have another couple of days to train, and he will compete with the other four for that position. We have to take the best decision possible."
“The best decision possible” could very well include relegating Torres to the bench, should Villas-Boas want to employ the “safe” route against the champions.
Manchester United 8-2 Arsenal (28/08; Premier League)
Bolton Wanderers 0-5 Manchester United (10/09; Premier League)
Benfica 1-1 Manchester United (14/09; Champions League)
Chelsea 3-1 Norwich City (27/08; Premier League)
Sunderland 1-2 Chelsea (10/09; Premier League)
Chelsea 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen (13/09; Champions League)
Manchester United: Tom Cleverly; Danny Welbeck; Rafael; Nemanja Vidic (doubt)
Chelsea: Michael Essien; Didier Drogba (doubt)
Players to watch
Manchester United – Wayne Rooney: The former Everton man is getting better with each passing match. A hat-trick against Bolton was the summit of Rooney’s season so far, and with such displays week in-week out, he will be a key factor in this clash.
Chelsea – Juan Mata: Mata has had a good start to his English adventure, with goals against Norwich and Leverkusen to date. A World Cup-winning squad member with Spain in 2010, the ex-Valencia man looks a fine acquisition for Chelsea. His importance for the Blues will likely intensify as time goes by.
Back at their own ground, Manchester United know very well that a win against Chelsea would provide a massive boost to their title credentials as well as damaging those of their opponents. The 2005 and 2006 champions are by no whipping boys, but they do not appear to be playing champagne football at the moment. Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea.
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