Champion’s League: Manchester United vs. Chelsea Tactical Preview

For Manchester United vs. Chelsea Live Commentary.

I'm looking at the man in the mirror. "Both" need to score for Chelsea today.

Shaun will be along later for the live commentary.

For now, the tactical preview.

Your undercard? Well that would be….Barcelona vs. Shakhtar Donetsk? Ah yes, after the Catalans thrashing of the Ukrainian side last week, advancement for Iniesta, Messi and company is all but assured.

The Peppy men would need to lose by the exact score of 4-0 (an away goal by Barca ratchets that home side goal number up) to be knocked out in the knockouts.

Let’s move on.

Now for the Main Event: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Antonio Valencia is back.

Fernando Torres still has not scored.

Manchester United have yet to lose at home this season.

Much of this does not bode well for Chelsea.

That said, Champion’s League affairs–familiar with the opponent or not–don’t always hold serve.

The story in this one? The midfield of course.

Last week saw two unorthodox midfields for both sides. United had Ryan Giggs moved centrally, while Chelsea choose to deploy Yuri Zhirkov instead of Florent Malouda on the outside. (Florent Malouda must be pouting in the locker room or something because good form or not, I’m not sure how he’s not an automatic on the team sheet.)

The effect of the midfields was nearly a canceling out with the exception of Wayne Rooney, who was given a license to roam about the midfield, defend there, pick-up the ball here and generally cause havoc.

Rooney made himself a pest more than 9 times last week at the Bridge...

Rooney earned plaudits for his efforts, but consider this: While it needs to be a special player that is allowed to roam, shouldn’t that player be the difference maker, free of offensive positional discipline and a secondary defensive asset. I say yes. Would Steven Gerrard be the player?….okay moving on again.

Chelsea remained in a static 4-4-2 until halfway through the 2nd half and it’s lack of definition hurt their attack. Once again Chelsea was unable to discover their working #10 on offense.

If Jens Lehman can play for Arsenal again, couldn’t Chelsea have suited up Deco or god forbid Adrian Mutu down the stretch here?

On defense, the slowing Frank Lampard often looked lethargic and indecisive in defense and the former West Ham man was also hesitant going forward on offense.

With Sir Alex’s side in their home lair and Chelsea needing at least an away goal to make it series, what will be in store today?

Look for Chelsea to nudge a little more into a “sort-of” 4-3-3 likely with Nicolas Anelka up top because of his ability to drop deep or using the post-up moves of Didier Drogba.

Chelsea on the attack...

Fernando Torres plays off him more as a right forward. Florent Malouda complements to the left.

Behind the forward curtain is the pinched-in Frank Lampard pairing with the box-to-box play of Ramires with Essien as the holder. You may see Ramires and Essien switch in this game (or John Obi Mikel for Ramires with Essien taking the Brazilian’s spot). The midfield will be key and Ancelotti needs to get it right.

As for Manchester United, I think you’ll see the customary defensive posture from the Scottish skipper. Jack-of-trades Darren Fletcher is still out, and Ferguson may choose to deploy Ji-Sung Park to help out Rafael who is just making his way back into the side; or he may go with Antonio Valencia to keep Alex Cole pinned back. The Malouda-Rafael match-up is one the Blues will want to exploit and Ferguson’s balance of postures on that side may be the key to the match.

The backline fills out like it always does with Evra, Nemanja Vidic (who deserves more than cursory mention in player of the campaign discussions) and Piers Morgan’s buddy Rio Ferdinand.

United's defensive posture...

In front of Manchester United’s defensive curtain goes a 2-3-1. Michael Carrick will be called on to provide cover for Rafael on the right, while Paul Scholes will be the distributor on the left. Ahead of this, Rooney drops a little deeper. He’s flanked by Nani on the left and (the big question) either Ji-Sung Park on the right or, if Sir Alex is feeling it, Antonio Valencia. Hard for me to see both Valencia and Nani playing, so if the selection is Nani, Park may be flipped to the other side.

Ahead are the runs of Javier Hernandez keeping Chelsea’s central defenders occupied.

Manchester United will look to play long to the flanks, more as a defensive mechanism to keep Chelsea pinned in and challenge them to work up the field. Chelsea will look to exploit Florent Malouda or a quick switch to Torres who may get a fair amount of 1-on-1 chances versus Evra.

Very interesting and the best fare of the the four Champion’s League games this week.

23 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rohan on 2011/04/12 at 9:46 AM

    it makes sense….but not malouda an automatic starter…good work


  2. come on chelsea i believin u so cum on and show ur spirit


  3. Posted by Wallace on 2011/04/12 at 10:07 AM

    I’ve been looking forward to this match all week. I think what makes this pairing so interesting is that Chelsea’s players (Torres, Drogba and Anelka) and even a manager(mancini)have something really big that they must prove. If they fail to advance today there is no way they can claim a successful season.

    My Guess:
    2-1 Chelsea. Chelsea advance on away goals.

    Too many world class professionals needing to save some face and their jobs. Should be a great game.


  4. Posted by dth on 2011/04/12 at 10:13 AM

    My guess is Park on the right to contain Cole, especially with Rafael’s injury issues. Ferguson loves Park for one-off games charged with defensive duties.


  5. Posted by Jesse G. on 2011/04/12 at 10:14 AM

    Maybe I’m being dense but, for the life of me, I cannot figure out what this paragraph means: “Rooney earned plaudits for his efforts, but consider this: While it needs to be a special player that is allowed to roam, shouldn’t that player be the difference maker, free of offensive positional discipline and a secondary defensive asset. I say yes. Would Steven Gerrard be the player?….okay moving on again.”

    Could someone explain?


    • Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/04/12 at 10:22 AM

      Usually when Matt starts answering his own non sequiturs it’s usually a caffeine issue.;<)


    • Posted by dth on 2011/04/12 at 10:32 AM

      I’m guessing he means that if you’re given a role to do whatever the hell you want, you’d expect good production. Great powers mean great responsibility and suchlike.

      And, uh, I guess he’s referring to Steven Gerrard’s erstwhile role in Liverpool as “dude who runs around doing stuff, sometimes well.”


      • Posted by matthewsf on 2011/04/12 at 10:37 AM

        Precisely…those that are long-time readers (who I am trying to make sure I keep entertaining) no my long struggle with Steven Gerrard uber-uber-elite status.


      • Posted by John on 2011/04/12 at 11:02 AM

        Gerrard has really been

        “dude who runs around doing stuff”

        For the last year or so.

        Sometimes well… is… well… not so often these days.


  6. Can’t wait for this match — Park will be hugely important. Nani/Valencia should be able to take advantage of Chelsea opening up as the game gets on and they search harder for that all important goal.

    Predict the winner at You can also predict total goals scored in both matches, in addition to some predictions for the barca match as well. Streaks of correct predictions earn you cool prizes and cash.


  7. Posted by KickinNames... on 2011/04/12 at 10:19 AM

    Well done review but tge real question is does Ancellotti have the balls to do what really needs to be done…sit Torres and play Anelka/Drogba? After that pathetic showing last game you just cannot believe that he has goals in him. Let alone BIG goals. I know it’s an Abramovich call but…
    I despise United but they outclass Chelsea all over the pitch here(CB-Vidic vs Terry), MF-Giggs/Carrick (yes Giggs) vs Fat Frank/ Essien, Ramires v Valencia/Nani…striker…sad but true.


  8. Posted by didier drogba on 2011/04/12 at 10:21 AM

    i think chelsea gonna win they have brilliant tactics and now they start with torres thats better because his play gonna to give chelsea a energy kick


  9. i think if play like used to we can beat any team barca,man u,or real. and we will win the game today guaranteed…torres 4 his first gooaaal.


  10. the real question is will this website still be relevant at the day’s end?


  11. woow that was cool


  12. I expect United to get at least a draw here and advance to the semifinals. A draw at half-time is also possible. United will defend their first-leg advantage and try to surprise Chelsea with counterattacks.


  13. Posted by John on 2011/04/12 at 11:32 AM

    I am going to make a completely nonsensical call based entirely on hyperbole and schadenfreude…

    1 – 0 to Chelsea.


    Torres to miss for United going through.


  14. manchester going to win this match i bet


  15. Posted by GeorgeCross on 2011/04/12 at 11:53 AM

    Anybody have a live feed address?


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