Even without really caring about the rest of the season, Manchester United always try to look like a team with something to play for, especially when it’s against a traditional (a decade us traditional enough) rival like Chelsea, who still have plenty to fight for in what remains of the 2012-2013 season.
For United, who have already won the league title, it’s about showing that sportsmanship is a part of their vocabulary, although their draw at the Emirates against a helpless Arsenal team should have been enough proof already. It’s hard to say who Alex Ferguson wants to ruin it for more – Arsenal or Chelsea, but his dislike for Rafa Benitez for whatever reason might drive him to give a super-special motivational speech heading into the match.
In terms of football, Chelsea have been playing the better of it in recent weeks, winning their last three matches, not losing in the league since March 30 at Southampton. More than that, their previous visit to Old Trafford in the FA Cup, resulting in a 2-2 draw that was so much more than that for a team grasping at straws, is proof enough that their talent up front should provide them with a similar chance to do similar damage on their second visit.
The matches between United and Chelsea this season have brought forth 19 goals in four encounters. The first match between them, a fantastic 3-2 thriller that went illegally (a mistake by the referee in their favor, once again) to United, was one of the best we’ve seen all season. United seem to no longer have that fire that kept them winning everything earlier on in the season, but then again, there’s really no need for anything more than cruising by before it’s all over.
For Chelsea, it’s going to be about the fantastic ability of Eden Hazard in recent weeks, while hoping Fernando Torres remembers just how well he played against Basel before the weekend to secure a Europa League final berth for the team, their first ever in the competition. David Luiz is playing as well as any other centre back in Europe right now, mostly for what he does with the ball instead of stopping opponents, but that might leave the Blues vulnerable at the back.
It’s hard to say what lineup Alex Ferguson will opt to use in such a match, but it’ll mostly be about the focus and concentration of his players that determines of much of a close one this will be. A solid defensive effort from Phil Jones and whoever else plays in the defense, and Chelsea will struggle to replicate their recent successes. A disorganized looking midfield and defensive line might the side’s third loss at home this season.
Prediction – When someone needs a result and has the quality to get it, they don’t often mess up. Chelsea have shown they have the quality to win and play well against this version of United twice already this season. With the kind of stakes up for grabs in this one, there’s no reason they shouldn’t do it again.