Manchester United might have already won the English Premier League title for the 2012-13 season, but don't expect them to take it easy against Chelsea on Sunday.
The Blues have formed a bitter rivalry with United over the years, and after knocking them out of the FA Cup quarterfinals last month, Sir Alex Ferguson's men will be keen to exact their revenge on the West London club and chalk up a win in this one.
With their chance at playing European football next season on the line, Chelsea will be a tough side to break down—even if this is being played at Old Trafford. The Blues have shown great strength at times this season, and are finishing their 2013 season in dominant fashion—making the semifinals of the FA Cup and final of the Europa League this week.
So who will emerge triumphant from the Theatre of Dreams this weekend?
Read on for all the match details, and keys to victory for both Manchester United and Chelsea in their blockbuster Premier League clash this weekend.
Date: Sunday, May 5, 2013
Start Time: 11:00 a.m. ET (4:00 p.m. British time)
Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester England
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Deportes
Manchester United: Keys to Victory
Move the Ball Quickly Upfield; Utilize Wayne Rooney's Running
As shown in the their previous matches against Chelsea throughout the year, Manchester United are at their best when they move the ball quickly upfield.
The likes of Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick have been excellent in the middle of the field this year and have been very good at working the ball through to Wayne Rooney in attack—something that they'll be looking to do again in this one.
The Blues will press through midfield and try to shut down the space that the midfield pair has. They will also try to keep Robin van Persie under wraps at the top of the attack—potentially opening up space in between the midfield and attack for Rooney to run at defenders and wreak havoc.
Rooney has shown to be prolific when running at defenders—laying it off to Van Persie or going himself—and could have a similar impact in this one.
Muscle Up in Defense on Demba Ba
Demba Ba's arrival to Chelsea over the summer transfer window was a great deal for the Blues—giving them another body to aim for at the top of the attack.
Yet more than that, Ba gives the Blues a physical presence to look for. He is strong and capable of getting it done in the air and on the ground—meaning that United must muscle up in defense on the Senegalese international and not allow him any space.
As United saw in the FA Cup quarterfinal, Ba is capable of changing the game with one or two moments of brilliance. He was simply hungrier and more determined when he netted his incredible volley in their Blues' 1-0 win, and United must not give him that space again in this one.
Rio Ferdinand (or whoever else plays in central defense) must man up on Ba from the opening whistle in this one and not give him the space he needs to succeed.
Chelsea: Keys to Victory
Not Get Caught Pressing Too High in Defense
David Luiz must be on a high right now for the Blues. He's netted two incredible goals in as many matches and has been superb pressing forward from the back—adding another dimension to their midfield and control of the game and allowing their central midfielders to push higher up field as well.
However, as dominant as he's been in that role, he must not get caught too high in this one if he's being played as a central defender, not a midfielder.
Robin van Persie has shown all season to be brilliant at getting in behind defenses and finishing off swift counterattacks. He proved that against Aston Villa when United clinched the title and he's done so time and time again this season—meaning he'll have no problems doing it again here.
United can throw a long ball deep and Van Persie can finish if Chelsea are caught too high, so they must not allow the Red Devils space to get in behind. The responsibility isn't on Luiz if he's played in the midfield, but it is if he's selected as a central defender to shut down Van Persie.
Attack Down the Left; Utilize Eden Hazard
Chelsea are a good attacking team that are capable of finding chances from anywhere on the pitch, but going down the left is paramount to their success in this one.
Summer signing Eden Hazard has been superb at times this year for the Blues and has particularly stepped up against the Red Devils. He possesses brilliant skill and is technically better than Rafael, which could allow him to get in behind the United right back and find some success in this one.
Hazard could start on the bench after his Europa League performance during the week, but Benitez must make sure he still gives the Belgian plenty of minutes here. United were up 2-0 at home earlier in the year and Hazard came off the bench to make it 2-1 and eventually lead Chelsea back to a 2-2 draw, so the attacking star is definitely a threat to watch here.
Particularly with Ashley Cole back in the starting lineup for this one.
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