Monday 13th March 2017- 20:00- BBC 1 HD
In what must be considered the glamour tie of the quarterfinals of the FA Cup, Manchester United travel to Chelsea with a trip to Wembley in the Semi-Finals up for grabs. United have a horrendous record against Chelsea in recent times. They have failed to beat Chelsea, home or away, in their last 11 games. With United’s last victory back in October 2012, a 3-2 win in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge. It is a run that has seen United lose 6, and draw 11.
The most recent of those defeats came back in October, as the special one returned to his spiritual home, and saw his new side hammered 4-0.
United were poor on that day, they were ragged at the back, ripped open by Pedro’s opener without even having a touch and left flapping from then on. United were terrible at the back and Chelsea did not even need to be at their best to win. They created a number of chances, but principally through United’s own defensive incompetence rather than the home side’s brilliance in attack. Having got a 2-0 lead, Chelsea sat back and waited for the chances to come on the counter.
However, that was United’s last loss in the league, and since that game United have only lost once in all competitions, against Hull City in the second leg of the EFL Cup. The issue for Mourinho being that United are drawing more games than they are winning, including a 1-1 draw with Bournemouth that cost them a chance to get into the top 4.
As bad as United were at the back, Chelsea were better and this was in the midst of their 13 game winning run that took them to the top of the league. A position they remain in today.
With Antonio Conte’s Blues clear at the top of the Premier League, the Italian coach will be eyeing FA Cup glory in a bid to complete the Double in his debut season in England. Chelsea have an advantage of United, in that they have had more time to rest. They played on Monday and were able to extend their lead at the top of the table by 10 points, with a 2-1 win over West Ham.
Following the win over West Ham, Conte’s attention turned to United:
“Now it’s important to rest tomorrow and prepare for the game on Monday against United in the FA Cup, It could be another target for us this season but we know it will be a very tough game.”
“We all know Manchester United are a really good team with strong players and great quality.”
It has been suggested that Conte will bring in all the big guns for this game against United. He has rotated his team for the FA Cup this season, but did bring back Eden Hazard and Diego Costa for the fifth-round victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers. The likes of Thibaut Courtois, N’Golo Kante and Gary Cahill could also be restored to his FA Cup team. There are no injury concerns for Conte, and it is likely he will play a full strength XI.
Despite a tough 1-1 draw with Rostov, on a pitch that even some Sunday league teams would have troubled navigating, Jose Mourinho promised not to play a “Nicky Butt team” in an effort to retain the trophy they won last season.
“We have to try by every means. We have a trophy in our pocket which is always a good feeling for everyone. Monday we don’t go with a Nicky Butt team. Manchester United is too big, it is the winner of the competition.”
“It is not Chelsea’s fault that we were given this Monday match so we have to make changes for sure because we play Monday and Rostov play Sunday, but we can’t go to Stamford Bridge with a Nicky Butt team.”
One player United will have to do without is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who begins a 3-match suspension for violent conduct, after he elbowed Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings in the face. Ibrahimovic has been a talisman for United this season scoring 26 goals in all competitions, including the winner against Blackburn in the previous round. The question is who replaces Ibrahimovic against Chelsea? The squad announced had no place for Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, or Anthony Martial, all out through injury or illness so could end up with Fellani up top with Henrikh Mkhitaryan in behind. Either way it’s a far cry from full strength.
United played a 3-5-2 formation against the Russians, it is expected that United will switch to 4-2-3-1 against Chelsea.
By Rich Lee @RichLee2202