Chelsea Vs Manchester United Preview Mar 1


Kick off: March 2, 2011 0115 IST at Stamford Bridge, Live on ESPN
Match Referee: Martin Atkinson

Games played Won Drawn Lost Goal Difference Points
Manchester United 27 17 9 1 36 60
Arsenal 27 17 5 5 30 56
Manchester City 28 14 8 6 19 50
Tottenham Hotspur 27 13 8 6 7 47
Chelsea 26 13 6 7 24 45

 

When I had written a preview to this fixture which was scheduled to occur two months ago, United were in the ascendancy, while Chelsea in the beginning of a slump. When the fixture was controversially postponed, it was thought, it boded well for the Champions, and that come March, we would have a title deciding battle. Oh how things have changed in 8 weeks!

Bring it on!

The limelight to the buildup of this game has been stolen by Rooney’s elbow and Cole’s shooting extravaganza. While United fans argue Rooney’s act is getting unwarranted attention from the media, Anti United fans are of the opinion, Rooney always gets let off! Either way, IMO, it was a cynical act no matter what the reason and with the FA’s reputation for inconsistency accompanied by Clattenburg’s view of the incident, meant there was no way Rooney would get into any trouble. As for Cole, well God only knows what the hell he was doing with a rifle at work!

Cricket may be the sport of gentlemen, but in football, we somehow tend to look at only the footballer in the person and hence we move on to another exciting fixture.

Recent form

Manchester United: WWLWW
Chelsea: WWWLD

  • Trailing 15 points behind United, every fixture ahead is crucial for Chelsea to achieve a Champions League spot.

Head to Head

  • Chelsea has never been kind to United at home, well they used to hold an impeccable home record until this season where they have already seen 2 defeats in the league. [Sunderland 0-3, Liverpool 0-1]
  • United have a dismal scoring record and have failed to win a game in the last 9 visits. [last win in 2002]

statistically relevant, formwise.. doubt it

Heroes|Zeroes

  • Didier Drogba has been disappointing ever since he lost out to a bout of malaria. The arrival of Torres has not helped his mood much either. With Nico and Torres getting to enjoy each other’s company on the pitch, Drogs’ has to do the the 15 min fill up|super sub striker role henceforth.
  • Fernando Torres has a fantastic track record having scored 4 times in the last 3 meetings. He might be in an odd form right now in a new outfit, but he manages to bring out the best in him in the big fixtures. Watch out.
  • Vidic has to be spoken in the same wavelength as Torres. Keeping him quiet will be premier priority for the Captain and he needs to be at his best.
  • Nani – Cole will be a battle to watch. The Portugese is doing everything right this season and has been pivotal to United’s pole position, expect a show.
  • Wayne Rooney – has scored one out of the world goal already this season, add that to the elbow and we have an extreme package available; will have to wait and see which Wazza turns up.
watch out for Nani!

Injuries

Manchester United: Twitter pro Rio Ferdy continues to enjoy tweeting on the sidelines [calf] while slowly but steadily Chris Smalling takes over his slot with some standout performances. Valencia has returned to first team training, while Park [hamstring], Anderson [knee] and Evans – unavailable.

Chelsea: Fitness isn’t Carlo’s worry, form is, and having had a relieving performance in Europe, the blues will look to regain control.

Squads and Prediction

Manchester United: Van der Sar, Evra, Vidic, Smalling, Rafael, Giggs, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher, Nani, Rooney

Chelsea: Cech, Cole, Terry, Luiz, Ivanovic, Malouda, Essien, Lampard, Anelka, Kalou, Torres

I go for a scored draw 11

Wigan 0 – 4 Manchester United Feb 26


Returning from Europe after a tough game, Sir Alex still had some injuries to contend with. He resorted to a full strength attacking squad with Chicharito getting one of those rare starts. He opted for a 4-4-2 clearly indicating nothing below 3 points will be entertained

0-45

Wigan started bright, in fact as always the bottom 3 teams play with a lot of vigor against United. United were struggling to get hold of the game when a string of opportunities from Moses and Mc Carthy were beautifully denied by Van der Sar who just doesn’t seem to age.

An off the ball incident in the middle of the park where Rooney elbowed Mc Carthy in the face , was a blatant red, which even as a MUFC fan, I find it appalling how Mark Clattenberg could award JUST a free kick. This incident marked the start to a multitude of poor decisions in the first half for the referee who didn’t do his reputation any good amongst the home or away fans.

A brilliant back flick at 12’ released Mc Carthy one on one on the right wing, but VdS was alert and quick to smother an attempt which surely should have been in the back of the net. A couple of careless passing by Scholes and Smalling exposed VdS but he was the pick of the United players in the first half.

At 17’, United broke forward with Rooney and Nani on the left exchanging a 1-2, which released Nani to the edge of the box from where he sent a nice low cross for Chicharito to slot in at the near post. As always, Chicharito’s composure in front of goal is fantastic and he made the goal look a stroll in the park.

Nani continued to revel in the latter stages of the first half creating few opportunities, once finding the keeper, the side netting and the upright!

46’- 90’ +3min

The game ebbed and flowed with equal possession, both teams playing open football, the irony where was Wigan all this season.. if they continue to play like this they will survive.

As we neared the final quarter, the closing stages of the game – I was biting my nails with NZogbia’s drives and Rodallega’s energy always a threat! However a wonderful 1-2 between Rooney and Chicharito released him one on one with the keeper with only one outcome.

This goal opened the floodgates as Gibson who came on for Scholes, sent a long ball to find Berbatov running in open ground behind Alcaraz, sending a soft cross for a tap in for Wazza. The icing on the cake was for Fabio, who came on in the final few min and managed to get himself at the end of a Fletcher cross, totally unmarked, and slotting well past Al Habsi – making it a rout eventually.

FINAL VERDICT

  • Turning point: Red card for Rooney – didn’t happen, so the turning point is Van der Sar’s brilliant block of Mc Carthy’s 12’ attempt which would have turned the game on its head.
  • FA wont take any action considering Mark already dished out a freekick and didn’t deem it a foul worthy of even a yellow.
  • Spirited performance from Wigan is what is needed for them to survive and ofcourse a bit of luck.
  • Crucial win for United with 2 big fixtures away at Stamford and Anfield. 3 points at the former will mount immense pressure on Arsenal to fight back.

PLAYER RATINGS

  • Van der Sar 9.0 Evra 8.5 Vidic 8.5 Smalling 8.5 O’Shea 8.5 Nani 8.75 Scholes 8.5 Carrick 8.75 Fletcher 8.5 Rooney 9.5 Chicharito 9.25
  • Subs: Fabio 8.5 Gibson 8.5 Berbatov 8.5

Arsenal 2 – 1 Barcelona


Highlights available here for download

Download HD torrent here

When playing the best team in the world, the opposition has to get the elements right:

  • Tactically well prepared
  • Best squad available to execute the plan
  • The entire squad to have a very good day at the office
  • Good fortune: Eg: injury ridden opposition, few refereeing decisions; world’s best player to take a day off.

Apart from the single goal conceded due to a defensive lapse of concentration, Arsenal were well worthy of the result.

Teams

There were no elements of surprise in the playing XI with Puyol out injured and Sagna suspended. Both teams went out to play their natural game with their usual formations. Return of Nasri from injury was Wenger’s boost.

First 45

With a backing of a vociferous home crowd, Arsenal started the game with a wonderful tempo, bossing possession and giving a piece of their own football to the best passing team. With hardly 6 min into the game, a late but intentional tackle from behind on Messi, saw Alex Song getting into the book, which in the circumstances was very harsh. This didn’t seem to hamper his game much, as he continued to be involved in a series of small fouls thereafter [4-5] and each time he fouled, the crowd waited with baited breath, hoping the dreaded second yellow wouldn’t pop out.

A couple of free flowing passes in the final third saw some lovely link up between Cesc, RvP and Theo. Nasri seemed to take a bit of time to get into the game, not willing to stretch his hamstrings. This lead to a lot of space opening up for Alves to run behind  Nasri and every movement forward through acres of green pitch on the right, threatened to punish Arsenal.

Twice Villa – Messi duo coupled to beat Arsenal’s high line with through balls, whilst Messi missed his opportunity, Villa didn’t and the score read 0-1. Though in this case, Clichy was culpable for losing shape and playing Villa on. As the half grew on, the possession stats quickly reversed, with Barca homing into easy possession as always and threatening to breach Arsenal’s high line.

At the other end, RvP had a couple of good opportunities to test Valdes, one stinging the keeper, the other abysmally wide, after being sent thru with some lovely quick short passing. When such opportunities pop up we expect, RvP to convert and it seemed like it might come to haunt them.

Second 45’+2

Barcelona resumed services in the second half, but Arsenal looked keener to make an impression and the impressive defensive work by Koscielny to thwart off threats was remarkable. The lad played with a lot of confidence and authority, and seemed to be marshalling the line very well. Jack Wilshere was getting some nifty footwork going in the middle of the park, and was soon finding himself speeding from box to box with an intent to deliver. One such beautiful run, sent RvP through but again he failed to test the keeper. In another he dribbled past 3 players, played a 1-2 with RvP and was denied a goal scoring opportunity by a desperately diving Abidal.

Barcelona were surprisingly getting stifled in midfield with the gritty work by Cesc and Jack working up Xavi and Iniesta. So Pep swapped David Villa for Keita to address some defending. Walcott was hardly given any space to rip down the channel today, so Bendtner came on. Arsene expressed his intent replacing Arshavin for the booked Song. Nasri moved in central, leaving the left wing for the Russian. The Arsenal full backs were making more open runs on the break whenever possible and one such beautiful reverse pass from Clichy, released RvP into the box, who scored a lovely goal from a tight angle between the keeper and his near post.

The impact of the goal and the sudden change in tempo was evident. The Arsenal players had an extra step in their attack, were making more positive runs and soon caught Barcelona on the break where a superb cross into the box was curled in from 15 yards by Arshavin beating the keeper and two defenders. The quality of the strike deserves due credit, for a player who had just come on and made the most meaningful contribution.

Barcelona came close to an equalizer in the dying moments of the game when a soft back pass header from Arshavin almost landed Szcesny in a bit of bother but Arsenal managed to hold on to mark a remarkable comeback.

Final Verdict

  • Arsenal have improved as a unit. Did not let their shoulders drop after conceding. Were defensively very impressive though one lapse cost them an away goal.
  • Koscielny, Wilshere were standout performers for Arsenal.
  • Messi uncharacteristically missed 2 bread n butter chances on goal, and was ruled offside for the one he did net.
  • Will 2-1 help them withstand the barrage at Nou Camp.. we will have to wait and see.
  • It was an eye soothing 1.5 hrs of football and that is why we follow this beautiful game.

AC Milan 0 – 1 Tottenham Hotspurs


After a long break, trying to stay up for a late champions league match seemed more stressful than it used to be, but was worth it when I woke up ten min into the first half. I’d missed the pre match buildup, the formation and the injury lists. But it took me only 5 min to realize which team was calling the shots. Harry did not come up with a full strength team, and by ‘full strength’ I mean a team without BALE and Modric [bench], however a fit Van der Waart was always a key.

Spurs were beyond doubt calling the shots for the first 30min, making the home team look old and slow. Industrious quick passing, long balls targeting the infallible Peter Crouch, and VdV dictating most of the play in the absence of Modric, Milan were a shadow of what was expected of them. They lacked desire, the lanky Ibra straying offside once too often, the veteran midfielders were given no space or time on the ball by some clinical interceptions by the Palacios – Sandro – Pienaar triumvirate. More than two-thirds of Spurs attack was left winged through the Pienaar – Ekotto – Vdv – Crouch quartet which was surely a tactical approach, however every move which saw Lennon one on one with the Milan full back, resulted in a delivery to the box.

The remaining 15 min of the first half saw some scrappy passage of play with Milan able to contain the flow, and Spurs losing some of the rhythm and momentum going forward, however the defensive back four and Gomez were  hardly tested, and Harry would have been very satisfied with the team’s performance.

The Milan captain Gattuso was cutting a frustrated figure as he was literally swatted away in any aerial challenge against the 6’7’’ English forward.

The Milan coach was no doubt the one who had to do all the halftime work, and a positive move with injection of pace and strike came through Pato in place of an ineffective Seedorf. Spurs looked to start the second half just like the first, with a clever half turn chip over the keeper by VdV just going past the top corner.  Ten minutes later a blatant red card offence – a two footed driving tackle from Flamini took Corluka out of the game, however both were lucky, former to still be on the pitch and latter to not have broken a leg. The reluctance of the referee to not book the home player for an offence as clear as ever, is beyond me. But we have grown to become so accustomed to the fallacies of the UEFA, it was no surprise to see such an incorrect decision being made. A fiery Gattuso over the Corluka incident, shoved Spurs first team coach, Joe Jordan on the face [reminded me of CR7 recently pushing Pep for not giving the ball to him] and Jordan stood his ground.

The injury to Corluka added more spice to the game with Pienaar‘s retribution by tripping Thiago immediately, but not even one percent cynical. A lot more unnecessary tangles continued between Crouch and Gattuso and for all the latter’s frustration he got yellow carded for a clean tackle which saw him writhing on the carpet like a boy who has just been denied something he so badly wanted!

The yellow card meant he misses the return clash at White Hart Lane. But Milan continued to prod with more authority in the latter half of the game and came close twice but two brilliant saves by Gomez and a bit of luck meant this might just be their day.  With only ten min to go, a superb break started through Kranjcar releasing Lennon, saw Crouch slot in his 4th goal in 7 matches, a crucial AWAY goal in the context of the game and Harry couldn’t have been happier.

But bad scenes erupted towards the end of full time, with Gattuso head ‘nudging’ Jordan again and Bassong retaliating. Surely this incident has marred and probably snatched the limelight away from a tactically astute and perseverant performance by Harry’s  men and one can only imagine an Italian miracle will hinder this up and rising Spurs side from reaching the quarter finals.

FINAL VERDICT

  • Spurs were the underdogs coming into this game, but a surprisingly poor show by the Italian veterans could very much end their European dream.
  • Impossible to pick star performers in the Spurs team, they played as a wonderful unit right from back to front and are worthy of the WIN and returning with the precious Away goal.
  • Gattuso’s boiling over more so at his team’s hapless play, is still no reason to justify his indiscipline on and off the pitch. UEFA are always better making decisions off the pitch, so expect him to be treated to a lengthy vacation.
  • Harry’s request to review Flamini’s yellow to a red will surely fall on deaf ears.
  • Excellent start to the European campaign for England and lets hope Arsenal will ‘attempt’ to seek revenge 🙂

 

Manchester United 2 – 1 Manchester City Feb 12 ’11


After an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a bottom 3 team at the Molineux last weekend, a performance which Sir Alex described as ‘pathetic’, Manchester United had to bounce back immediately and to try and do that in the derby is a challenge. At the end of 90 + 4 min, It was a challenge accepted and a victory well deserved, built on some outstanding defending by the new recruit Chris Smalling and the most reliable player for United this season Luis Nani scoring the first and setting up the second for Rooney to add to the list of classics in the ‘overhead’ category.

Both teams set out with an understandably 4-5-1 ‘play it safe’ formation and Sir Alex decided to pick the not so much in form Wayne ahead of Berbatov. His decision to play John O’Shea at full back was also a surprise, but Mancini too opted to play with Tevez as the lone man up front.

As the first half grew on, weirdly the visitors were having a fair share of the possession, which was unnerving but a hefty touch from Giggsy to find a driving Nani into the box, resulted in 2 wonderful touches to drag the ball away from the defender and a third to slide the ball past the arms of Hart. Nani’s elation and celebration was typically characteristic with the Back Flip™ and rightly took United ahead with a 1-0 lead at half time.

15 min into the second half, Tevez continuing to be isolated and with no evidence suggestive of City to trouble the scorers, Mancini switched to a 4-4-2 bringing Dzeko on for Milner.  The result was almost evident when Dzeko found space from a SWP cross to try and curl it goalwards, however a fortuitous deflection off Silva’s back gave VDS no chance and the noisy neighbours were really turning the tone up.

Sir Alex refused to sit back and wait. Instead he also swapped to a 4-4-2 with the inform Berbatov coming on for Anderson. United’s persistence and grit through the ageless Giggs, the tenacious Fletcher, the rock solid Vidic finding an able ally in the young Chris Smalling, were able to conjure some good momentum goalwards.

And soon enough, an ensuing cross from Nani, took a deflection of Zabaleta falling kind for Rooney, who had no second thoughts on immediately improvising to catch the ball right in the middle with a beauty of an overhead finding the top corner of Hart’s far post. Of such high quality was the strike that for a moment, you could feel the entire crowds’ AWE turning into a rapturous celebration.  Wayne Rooney put his arms outstretched, acknowledging the unbelievable feat he had just achieved, a strike worthy any day of being the goal of the season.

United showed no signs of faltering in the remaining 10-15 min to cap off a wonderful way to bounce back after an embarrassing defeat last weekend which ended their unbeaten run.

To sum up

  • Rooney’s goal was a pleasure to witness, and it had CLASS written all over it. It augurs well for him to have scored what could very much be the record breaking 19th title winning goal.
  • Chris Smalling’s performance was no doubt top notch, one which even Rio sitting in the dugout would be proud of. Supporting the ever reliable captain, he ensured one too many a times that City dint test VdS.
  • Nani, has been, by a long distance the player of the season for united. Berbatov may be the one scoring the goals, but Nani is no doubt responsible for every crucial win which United have had so far. And how he has matured this season, holds good for the team.
  • IMO, its all over for city, and I would like to be outright co**y  and say ‘this title is ours to lose

Player Ratings

Van der Sar 8.0 Evra 8.0 Vidic 8.5 Smalling 9.0 O’Shea 8.0 Giggs 8.5 Scholes 8.0 Anderson 8.5 Fletcher 8.5 Nani 9.5 Rooney 9.5

Subs: Berbatov 8.5 Carrick 8.0