Sunday, November 19, 2017

Champions League preview: Manchester United v Chelsea

Chelsea face Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Champions League quarter-final second leg, looking to overturn a 1-0 deficit.

The first leg saw Chelsea denied a clear-cut penalty that angered Blues supporters and players alike but they could hardly complain with the result given their players’ performances.

Manchester United took a deserved aggregate lead through Wayne Rooney’s first-half golf.

And given the circumstances that Chelsea are in, the game will serve as a ‘final’, according to summer signing Yossi Benayoun.

“Everyone knows – the manager, the players – that we are playing to save our season,” the Israeli said.

Carlo Ancelotti believes an Old Trafford victory is not beyond the realms of possibility.

“We know it will be difficult to win there, but we have the confidence to do it. Last year we won at Old Trafford,” the Chelsea boss said.

On Saturday, Chelsea were bailed out by Florent Malouda, who has endured a tough season, against Wigan, who they thrashed 6-0 earlier in the season.

But, in their favour, the Blues welcome back Alex and Benayoun from injury for the quarter-final clash.

The Red Devils, who enjoyed an easy win against 11th-placed Fulham on Saturday, have not lost a home tie in Europe in six years and have conceded only two goals in the competition this season.

Sir Alex Ferguson has emphasised the importance of the fans’ support to welcome the reigning English Premier League champions.

“Our biggest advantage is Old Trafford. The fans will be fantastic and there will be an electric atmosphere.”

But with Chelsea likely to attack as it chases the tie, United will have to defend stoutly.

And Ferguson is confident his side has that area on the park figured out, especially with the return of injury-plagued Rio Ferdinand.

“The defence has done very well although that might have a lot to do with the way we have operated our midfield in Europe this season.”

“We have a lot of experience of playing in Europe now, and knowing how to keep possession of the ball has helped. We’ve found a way of playing in Europe, and I think we have the right players for the job on Tuesday.”

The winner of the all-English affair is likely to face Schalke, who hold a 5-2 advantage heading into the return leg against reigning champions Inter Milan, in the semi-finals.

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