Fernando Torres vs. Nemanja Vidic
Following his £50 million transfer from Liverpool, Fernando Torres has yet to find greener pastures at Stamford Bridge. The Spaniard has misfired so far for the reigning champions but still finds himself ahead of Didier Drogba in Carlo Ancelotti’s pecking order. Due to his successful history against Nemanja Vidic – and his manager’s determination to justify his price tag – it will come as no surprise if the Ivorian finds himself on the bench once again on Tuesday. Torres will hope he can conjure up some of the same magic that has caused the United captain to be sent off twice when pitted against each other. Vidic has been outstanding at the heart of United’s defense this season, however, and will look to ensure Torres’ disappointing start to life in London continues.
Undoubtedly one of the best left-backs in the world, Ashley Cole has struggled to keep himself out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. His latest incident saw him injure an intern by shooting him with an air rifle. Cole has escaped punishment for the training ground incident but all eyes will be focused on how he performs in his first game since the incident took place.
Also grabbing the headlines this week for the wrong reasons – and for large portions of this season – was Wayne Rooney. Despite scoring in United’s 4-0 win at Wigan on Saturday, most of the media fixated its attention on the forward’s intentional elbow on James McCarthy in the opening minutes of the match. Rooney has escaped punishment from the FA and will therefore be available for selection against the reigning champions, but his lack of goals this season may spell a start for Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez following his brace against Wigan. If selected, however, Rooney will need to stay out of trouble and exact the same type of influence for his side as he had against City a few weeks ago.
Despite sitting in fifth place in the league, Chelsea boast the best defensive record in the top flight with a total of 22 conceded. United, meanwhile, are the league’s top scorers with 61 goals thus far. Chelsea have invariably conceded more goals in the last five minutes of each half at any other time in matches and face a side notorious for snatching late goals. Chelsea have won just two of its last five home games but will take heart from United’s poor away form this season (4 wins from 13). Chelsea’s defense, which have found themselves unlocked much too casually at home this season at times, will have to be at their best to contain the threat of Berbatov and Nani – coincidently the league’s leading goal scorer and assist earner.
Both of last season’s fixtures between these two clubs were marred in controversy as United particularly felt hard-done by a John Terry goal at Stamford Bridge that was allowed to stand despite numerous infringements on the play. Martin Atkinson takes charge on Tuesday after originally being set to referee the game in December and will be looking to ensure this match steers clear of controversy. Interestingly, Atkinson has awarded the most penalties (10) and red cards (nine) out of any Premier League officials this season.