After their European adventure ended cruelly at the hands of Real Madrid in midweek, Manchester United will look to dust themselves off and come again as they entertain Chelsea.
Ahead on the night and in the tie, winger Nani was controversially shown a straight red for a high boot by referee Cuneyt Cakir. A man to the good, Real rallied and scored twice to knock the current Premier League leaders out of the competition.
Chelsea will be hoping to capitalise on United’s misfortune by beating their opponents in a competition the Blues won last season. Victory would also help relieve some of the pressure currently piled on interim manager Rafael Benitez as he struggles to win over fans and individuals at the club.
Benitez’s decision on who to play up-front could be the difference in the game. With Fernando Torres floundering once again in front of goal, January acquisition Demba Ba could provide the edge ahead of a creative Chelsea midfield.
United will again be looking to Dutch maestro Robin Van Persie to be the driving force in attack, and with rumours of a potential departure for England international Wayne Rooney circulating, Van Persie’s finishing ability will be heavily relied upon.
The past few ties between the two sides has provided end-to-end entertainment and numerous goals, and looking at the potential line-ups it would be hard to suggest anything different for this game.
The tie will temporarily distract United from their midweek woe, but defeat to the Stamford Bridge outfit would heap more misery on Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Ryan Giggs will sit out Manchester United’s FA Cup quarter-final with Chelsea. Giggs is not required by manager Sir Alex Ferguson following his outstanding performance against Real Madrid, so his wide berth is likely to go to Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young. Phil Jones (ankle) and Paul Scholes (knee) are definitely out, while the main focus will be on whether Wayne Rooney gets a start after being left on the bench against Madrid.
Chelsea captain John Terry and striker Fernando Torres could make way as Rafael Benitez again rotates his squad. Terry, whose fitness travails mean he is unlikely to be asked to play twice in four days, and Torres played in last night’s Europa League loss at Steaua Bucharest. Demba Ba, Victor Moses, Ramires and Nathan Ake return to the squad after missing the trip to Romania, while Oriol Romeu (knee) remains a long-term absentee.
Sir Alex Ferguson: “I’m not going to kick anyone when they’re lying down. It’s not my style. My concern is Manchester United. What happens at Chelsea doesn’t really affect me. Chelsea have a terrific record in the FA Cup, probably the best of any team in the last decade. It doesn’t matter when you play Chelsea or who’s in charge, we’ll have a hard game.”
Rafael Benitez: “It’s another competition and atmosphere (following the Europa League defeat to Steaua Bucharest). It will be totally different. It’s another challenge for us.”
Ivanovic issued a rallying cry to an expensive squad he admits has made a habit of underperforming this season.
“We have to be honest with each other, and we have to look in the mirror and see that a lot of things right now are not going how we would like them to,” he said.
“We have to be strong, we have to stay everybody together and try to finish the season if we can at the highest level.
“The Steaua game was disappointing for all of us because we’re not playing at the level we know we can.
“If we are realistic, this has become normal, and we have to change this quick, because games are passing us by. One by one.
“Time is running out for us. And if we want to change things we have to show more character. To play as a team, show fighting spirit as a team.
“This game [on Sunday] for us must be like a final. I think we have to show the strength to change everything. Because from now on every game for us is going to be harder and harder and much more difficult.
“Fighting spirit is not the only thing, there are a lot of things. We have to be honest with each other, with ourselves, and try to change this as quick as possible.”
Projected Lineups :
MANCHESTER UNITED :
Rafael • C. Smalling • J. Evans • P. Evra
T. Cleverley • Anderson
A. Valencia • W. Rooney • S. Kagawa
Azpilicueta • G. Cahill • J. Terry • A. Cole
F. Lampard • Ramires
Oscar • Mata • E. Hazard
Key Stats :
- Mexican striker Javier Hernandez has scored in his last three games against Chelsea. The poacher will be hoping to make that four in four to send his side through
- The last three encounters from these sides have drawn 20 goals
- Chelsea have appeared in four of the last six Wembley finals, winning every one of them. Victory over United will set them on their way once again.
- Manchester United are the most successful team in FA Cup history. The Old Trafford outfit have lifted the trophy eleven times in the history of the competition.
- PAST THREE MEETINGS :Chelsea 5 (Luiz, Cahill, Hazard, Sturridge, Ramires) Manchester United 4 (Giggs 2, Hernandez, Nani), Capital One Cup AET, October 2012Chelsea 2 (Mata, Ramires) Manchester United 3 (Luiz og, Van Persie, Hernandez), Premier League, October 2012
Chelsea 3 (Evans og, Mata, Luiz) Manchester United 3 (Rooney 2, Hernandez), Premier League, February 2012
- Chelsea have only lost one of their last 38 FA Cup games outright, winning 31 and drawing six.
- The Blues are now unbeaten in 27 cup games (excluding penalty shootouts), the longest ever run without defeat by a single side.
- The Red Devils have only lost two of their last 18 FA Cup away games, with both of those defeats coming at Anfield against Liverpool.
- Juan Mata has scored five goals and assisted seven in just 10 appearances in the FA Cup.
To be honest, I have a feeling we’ll feel the backlash of United’s loss against Real Madrid, but I also have another feeling saying that this will change the season and our problems will temporarily be solved. Nonetheless, it’ll be a high scoring game that ends 3-2 Chelsea.