Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea travel to Manchester United this weekend in buoyant mood, knowing a win will even things up in the race for the Premier League crown. At the time these two last met at Old Trafford it was extremely difficult to see this scenario occurring, but since United were triumphant in the Champions League Chelsea have gone about their business with quiet efficiency.
At the beginning of the campaign, when Chelsea looked the real team to beat, there was a consistency about the way they dominated teams. Two names appeared continually on the score sheet – Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda. It is no coincidence that as the Stamford Bridge outfit have closed the gap on United Malouda has been back amongst the goals, joined by Frank Lampard and Salomon Kalou.
Since going out of the Champions League at Old Trafford Chelsea have won all four of their Premier League fixtures and scored three times in all but one, last weekend’s win against Tottenham Hotspur, where they still managed to score two. Of the 11 goals they have accrued Lampard has three, Malouda has three and Kalou has also chipped in with three. The remaining two have come one apiece from Drogba and Fernando Torres. This suggests Chelsea’s key midfielders are back amongst the goals, but their striking issues are still clear for all to see.
Ancelotti’s side are likely to pack the midfield against United and line up with one of Drogba or Torres and in looking at previous encounters it may well be the Ivorian who gets the nod. Torres is said by many to be the tormentor of United but in reality the last time he showed his real worth against this side was in 2009, whereas Drogba has more recent success. Drogba effectively sealed the league for Chelsea in the corresponding fixture last term and by replacing Torres with him in the Champions League Ancelotti injected some steel and force into his attack, and it was no surprise when the Ivorian found the net. Drogba certainly likes a goal against United, especially on the big occasions and, in what could be the twilight of his Chelsea career, there are none bigger than this.
For many the United centre-half partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic is as good as they come, but they are not without their faults. Vidic especially can be uncomfortable with balls into the channels making him turn on his heels. This was apparent with Drogba’s goal in April and will be a tactic Ancelotti will again look to expose. Furthermore, Lampard and Malouda in form and feeding off the striker could really hurt United. Another key aspect Chelsea will look to which was missing in the quarter final is David Luiz. The Brazilian has been fantastic since his January switch and if Chelsea are to stop the United threat, his partnership with John Terry will have to be at its best.
Ancelotti’s men have nothing to lose going into this fixture. They have been written off time and time again, but with their current form it may be foolish to write them off once more.