The oldest national football competition in the world is back yet again with the goals, upsets and passion exhibited by the teams fighting for the trophy. Round 5 is almost done and the qualified teams so far are looking forward to sterner tests in the quarter finals. Which team will win it all? Will it be the Red Devils? Will it be potentially a major trophy win for Maurizio Sarri? Will we see a lower league side like Swansea shock the planet and lift it? The big one between Chelsea and Manchester United comes off later today to see who books the final spot for the quarter finals. Ghanafans.com takes a look at the long history between the two sides, team news, combined XI, key players and of course the possible outcome of the tie.
The two sides met for the very first time on 25th December 1905 in a League division two match and it ended with both teams failing to find the net. More than a century has passed and the record now stands at 54 wins for the Blues, 50 draws and 77 wins for the Red Devils in all competitions.
Taking a look at the FA Cup, the Red Devils have won more trophies (12) only trailing Arsenal by one whilst Chelsea have taken the cup home on 8 occasions in their history. The trophy count favours the Manchester side.
However, meetings in recent memory between the two sides in this competition does not favour Ole Gunner Solksjaer’s team as they have lost 4 of their last six fixtures against the Blues (D2 L4).
Ole will hope his men bring on the heat tonight and break this streak. Maurizio Sarri will hope to answer his critics today after that brutal defeat at the Etihad.
Ole will have a team without Matteo Darmian (knock), Antonio Valencia (muscular injury), Marcos Rojo (knock) and two key players to his system namely: Anthony Martial (Groin) and Jesse Lingard (hamstring).
Possible XI: David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof, Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford.
Maurizio Sarri will not have the services of Marco Van Ginkel available to him. Danny Drinkwater (late fitness test), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (late fitness test) and Gary Cahill (back) might not make the match day squad.
Possible XI: Kepa, Emerson Palmieri, David Luiz, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jorginho, N’golo Kante, Matteo Kovacic, Eden Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain, Pedro Rodriguez.
Kepa started well at the beginning of the season and is still in the running for the Premier League golden glove award. The resurgence of David De Gea however makes him the pick for the goalkeeping spot in this one. De Gea thwarts Kepa in the Premier League when it comes to saves (93-55), saves per match (3.58-2.12) and save success percentage (72.66%-65.48%).
Cesar Azpilicueta is the suitable choice for this one. Ashley Young has not been convincing in that position overall this season and this makes it easy for the Spaniard to take the spot. Using the Premier League stats as a metric again, Cesar leads in blocks (12-4), tackles won (41-18) and clearances (42-39).
Victor Lindelof has been immense since Ole took over from Mourinho and deserves one of the center back spots. The Swede has made 10 blocks, won 16 tackles and made a whopping 90 clearances so far in the league this season whilst creating 3 big chances from deep. He seems to have adapted to life in Manchester now and can only get better.
David Luiz has shown how dangerous he is on both ends of the pitch this season and hence takes the other center back spot. The Brazilian has already scored twice and assisted just as much in the league this season whilst playing a part in the 11 clean sheets Chelsea have recorded. He has also made 11 blocks, intercepted the ball on 24 occasions, won 29 tackles and has more than a century of clearances to his name (108).
Marcos Alonso has been terrible this season but makes the cut as he has the advantage over Luke Shaw defensively and offensively. Alonso leads in assists (3-1), interceptions (28-16), tackles won (30-22) and clearances (63-54). Alonso will be under the microscope again today and will hope to silence his critics.
Ngolo Kante has had to play a different role this season under Sarri and has seen a reduction in performances as a result of it. Kante however has been decent going forward, scoring three goals and assisting 4 in the league this season. He has also managed to create 4 big chances for his team mates. On the defensive side, the French international has recorded 36 interceptions, 24 tackles won and 21 clearances. The numbers make him a good candidate for one of the midfield positions.
Ander Herrera, another name on the lips of Manchester United fans for his good recent performances. His two goals, three assists and three chances created in the PL shows how dangerous he can be going forward. The defensive stats of the Spaniard are also good. He has made 36 interceptions, won 21 tackles and made 21 clearances. Herrera will hope to impress once again today.
Central Attacking Midfielder
The midfield will not be complete without the “unlocked” Paul Pogba. The world cup winner has scored 11 goals and assisted 9 in the Premier League this season. Paul has become a different player since Jose Mourinho left the side and will definitely be one to keep an eye on in today’s match.
Left Attacking Midfielder
Eden Hazard is an easy choice for this position. The Belgian is on double figures for goals and assists (12 goals, 10 assists) in the PL this season. He also has a total of 12 big chances created which shows how dangerous he is in attack. Hazard has been off colour recently and would hope to pick up the pace in tonight’s fixture.
Right Attacking Midfielder
Marcus Rashford gets the nod for this position. The young Englishman has scored 9 and assisted 6 in 22 PL appearances this season, a solid output for him. He is also one of the players who has seen a change in form since Ole took over and he will hope to build on that later today.
Gonzalo Higuain is the pick for the position. This is due to the terrible form of Romelu Lukaku this season in front of goal. Gonzalo has already found the net twice for Chelsea and given the opportunities, he will likely find the net more often. He will look to make a huge impact against a team of United’s caliber.
Sarri will of course look to Hazard to weave his magic and make a huge difference in the tie. The 2015 PFA player of the year winner is known to especially produce against the top six sides and Manchester United is one of such. Chelsea will have the advantage if he comes to the party.
Ole has orchestrated the reborn of Paul Pogba and will look to him to decide the outcome of this fixture. With Martial and Lingard unavailable, Pogba will shield extra responsibility and the United faithful will hope that he does not repeat the showing against PSG last midweek.
This is a difficult one to call. The absence of Lingard and Martial will certainly hurt Ole’s chances as they have been key since his arrival. He would have to find a different system as Alexis and Lukaku do not play as well in the system like they do. I think Chelsea will win this one by a close margin(2-1). Sarri has all his key players available and has the advantage in the tie.