Monday afternoon is the FA Cup quarter-finals replay between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The match kicks off at 7:30 am ET (12:30 pm GMT). It is being broadcast in the U.S. on FOX Soccer and on ITV1 in the UK. When they first met at Old Trafford United gave up a 2-0 lead and were lucky to have the game end in a 2-2 draw. Chelsea played a much better second half and probably wished they had done better in the first half in the same way Manchester United wished they’d played better in the second.
In Saturday’s match United managed to squeak past a poor Sunderland team. They put in a decent defensive showing, but this was also against a Sunderland team that lacked any real attacking threat and often relying on “route one” tactics. Chelsea will be a completely different team to go up against.
Rafa Benitez decision to continue with his policy of rotating players seems to have backfired on him. It worked out well for Sir Alex, but Chelsea was facing off against a Southampton team that has recently picked up confidence. I still think that Chelsea has a large enough squad that they should not have lost this one. They had plenty of quality players out there and they really have no excuse for this result.
What to watch for:
Manchester United has really worked on securing their defense following the Christmas break. In their last 7 results they have allowed 5 goals and scored 12. The unfortunate part for them is that they have allowed 4 of those goals in cup competitions (the 2 against Real Madrid dropped them out of the Champions League) and include the 2 against Chelsea in the first FA Cup Quarterfinal match.
With Phil Jones looking like he will be available I’m sure he will be deployed as a holding/defensive midfielder who will roam the field, most likely marking Eden Hazard. United has a relatively strong side with Rafael being their only injury concern at the moment.
Chelsea have Juan Mata out with illness, but could have Ramires and Tim Cahill returning from injury. Hazard was one of the players that made all the difference in the second half of the first match. His movement, along with Ramires, was a game changer. I could see Demba Ba starting up front to use his speed and power to get in behind the United defense as well as pull them and create space.
It will be interesting to see what Benitez does with his lineup considering that he rested several players on Saturday and they do have a Europa League match coming up on
Manchester United 4-2-3-1: De Gea, Evra, Ferdinand, Evans, Smalling, Carrick, Jones, Valencia, Nani, Rooney, van Persie
Bench: Lindegaard, Welbeck, Hernandez, Young, Vidic, Cleverly, Kagawa
Chelsea 4-2-3-1: Cech, Cole, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Lampard, Ramires, Oscar, Hazard, Moses, Ba
Bench: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Terry, Bertrand, Torres, Mikel, Marin
Monday morning’s match should definitely be an exciting one to watch. The first match was one of two halves with both teams having their halves to shine. It could be argued that United only played well for the first half hour. As it stands, Chelsea have played a lot of matches this whole season and will have had less than 48 hours to rest before this match. United will have had slightly more time and will also have the travel to deal with.
My prediction for the FA Cup replay is a narrow Manchester United win. I’m picking them to go through to the semi-finals 2-1 with a goal from Robin van Persie. I do feel like the amount of games played by Chelsea is catching up with them and could be their undoing this time of the year.
Manchester United are a team that have not gotten to an FA Cup final since winning it in 2004. In that time Chelsea have won it 4 times including last season. Manchester United want this match and they want the FA Cup. They have plenty of breathing room in the Premier League and this will certainly be a focus for Sir Alex and his men.
Let me know what your predictions are. Manchester United haven’t been scoring many goals lately so perhaps you disagree with my pick.