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We’ve gotten used to this match being a title decider for both sides, but a Chelsea win could only help Arsenal hone in on the crown, not themselves. A game less than United (26-27) and 15 points adrift from the position they finished in last season, Carlo Ancelotti’s men know that even a win tonight at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Alex Ferguson’s men have failed to win at since 2001-2002 and have not scored at in five of their last seven meetings, probably won’t propel Chelsea back into the title race, just strengthen their position in the Champions League race with Tottenham and Manchester City.

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It was a 1-0 victory on November 8, 2009 when these two last met at the Bridge. John Terry’s goal was the decider and winner for Chelsea who went on to win the title. Alex Ferguson cried about something when the match ended, I think it was that Chelsea didn’t deserve a free kick that led to the goal.

It didn’t work that time, but Ferguson’s use of the media and the FA’s poor decision making in order to back their declining in quality referee crew led to Wayne Rooney getting away with a intentional elbow to the face for Wigan’s James McCarthy. Here’s another look, if you haven’t seen it yet –

If that’s not a red, I don’t know what is. The fact is that Mark Clattenburg, the referee in charge, wrote in his report that he did see the incident and awarded Wigan with a free kick. According to the rules today, a ‘trial by video’ may only be used on incident which the referee missed. Clattenburg didn’t miss this one. He saw it, just made a stupid decision. Truth is he probably got a glimpse of a knock, and with referees usually hesitant to blow against Manchester United, decided to play it safe. If the FA could have set precedent? I don’t know, because it goes against their rules and regulations, but to Rooney walk away unscathed from this feels kind of wrong.

Got his Groove back?

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But Wayne Rooney, dirty antics or no, is slowly finding himself again. He has scored four goals in United’s last four league games, including that wonder goal against City in the derby and his performance against Wigan was probably his best this season. Despite Chelsesa’s diminishing intimidation factor this season, Ferguson needs a good Rooney display to win at the Bridge tonight. United’s most important player on offense is Nani, still. Ashley Cole, in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this week (Gun incident, missed penalty) has his hands full this evening.

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And what can Chelsea bring to the table? The 2-0 win over Copenhagen seemed to breathe some new life and hope into the depressed club. The FA Cup exit against Everton might have pushed that wind out. Ancelotti will have to decide if he sticks with the Anelka – Torres guns or put Drogba back in. Despite Didier Drogba being a better player than Anelka, I’d keep the Torres – Anelka partnership. I think it suits Chelsea better at this time, and Torres will score soon, as he has done against United in the past.

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Speaking of Fernando Torres leads us to Nemanja Vidic, who’s playing like on of the best in the world again. He’s composed, his timing is perfect and creates problems every time he’s near the penalty area. Chris Smalling has done brilliantly next to him and Rio Ferdinand, still injured, can tweet freely. The United defense is in safe hands. Terry and David Luiz, still adjusting to life in London, seem like a less solid partnership at the moment.

 

The Right Choice Upfront?

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We finish with United’s away record this season, not the greatest – Four wins, eight draws and a loss. It’s very hard to beat United, very hard to score against, but they do struggle with their game away from Old Trafford. If Chelsea can suddenly burst into life again and suddenly click, this might be a late turning point in the season, just in time. I think they can win, but I don’t think they will. Ferguson’s team may not be a brilliant side or impressive most of the time, but they get the job done. A draw is what came up on my cards.