Our football scribe previews the FA Cup quarter-final clash between Chelsea and Man United.
Chelsea and Manchester United will lock horns at Stamford Bridge in the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup on Monday. Jose Mourinho will be hoping for a better result on his second return to Stamford Bridge since being sacked last season, with United losing 4-0 in the league to the Blues last year.
New rules come into play in the FA Cup quarter-finals this season, with all ties decided on the night. Should any finish all-square after 90 minutes, then extra-time and penalties will be played to decide the outcome. Teams will also be permitted to make a fourth substitution should their match go into extra-time.
FA Cup Quarter-Final | Monday 13 March | Stamford Bridge | 21:45
To Win (90 Mins)
Chelsea 8/10 | Draw 49/20 | Man United 34/10
When these teams met in the league last year, Chelsea ran out comfortable 4-0 winners thanks to goals from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N'Golo Kante, with Jose Mourinho left humiliated on his return to Stamford Bridge. It was a dominant performance from Antonio Conte’s side, which handed their former manager his heaviest Premier League defeat.
Chelsea, who are looking to win a ninth FA Cup, are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, 17 points ahead of Manchester United, having played a game more. Conte’s side have won 15 of their 16 matches at Stamford Bridge this season, including 12 on the spin. They’ve scored 47 goals in the process while conceding 11 times.
The west Londoners comfortably saw off Peterborough, Brentford and Wolves to get to this stage of the tournament. Conte will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti and secure a domestic double in his first season in charge. The former Italy national team manager has revealed that he’s taking the FA Cup seriously, and that he wants to win the tournament.
He said: “I like to win every competition in every season. For sure, it won’t be easy in the league or the FA Cup. If you ask me if I want to try to win both competitions, yes for sure. We must have this winning mentality. When you are a Chelsea coach or player you must have the ambition to win every competition you play.”
Pedro has been Chelsea’s standout performer in the FA Cup, scoring four goals with two assists. The former Barcelona star, who came so close to signing for Manchester United in 2015, has already beaten David de Gea this season, scoring in the first 30 seconds of the Blues’ 4–0 win over United in mid-October.
Pedro will look to cause the Red Devils problems with his blistering pace, trickery and goal threat. With Pedro, Hazard and Diego Costa in stunning form, Chelsea’s attack looks frightening.
Manchester United will be on a revenge mission on Monday with Mourinho hoping for a better result on his second return to Stamford Bridge. United’s 4-0 humiliation defeat in October was extremely painful for Mourinho. Chelsea fans rubbed salt into their old idol's wounds by chanting "You're not special any more" at the manager who once dubbed himself 'the special one'.
United have not beaten Chelsea in their last 11 attempts, with their most recent win in October 2012. You would have to go all the way back to 2011 for the last time they turned them over in their own back yard. The Blues have the best record of any Premier League side against United, and are the only side to have won more league games than they have lost against the Red Devils.
Juan Mata, who was twice Chelsea's Player of the Year before moving to Old Trafford in 2014, is relishing another opportunity to return to his former club in order to right the wrongs of United's last appearance in west London as they attempt to reach the next round.
He said: This is without a doubt one of the most complicated ties we could have, but we will go there with the big motivation of earning a ticket to Wembley and forget the bad taste of our last visit to Stamford Bridge.
United booked their place in the last eight of the competition with an excellent comeback victory against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park last month, before defeating Reading and Wigan by 4-0 scores. Mourinho's side are in fine form – unbeaten in nine matches with seven wins – and are on a high after claiming the EFL Cup in a 3-2 win over Southampton.
In-form striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is facing a three-match ban after being charged with violent conduct. The Swede clashed with Bournemouth’s Tyrone Mings during United’s 1-1 draw at Old Trafford last weekend. Ibrahimovic took revenge by launching a vicious elbow on the defender after the Cherries left-back caught the striker with a boot to the head. With Zlatan unavailable for the clash, Mourinho will decide on Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial or Wayne Rooney to spearhead the attack.
Verdict: Costa to Score Anytime & Chelsea to Win (18/10)
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last six meetings at home to United, winning four times – or five if you count the 5-4 extra time victory in the 2012/13 League Cup. The Blues outclassed Mourinho's side in the league this season, but I think it will be a much tougher match this time.
However, Chelsea are incredibly tough to beat at home, with Antonio Conte’s side going unbeaten at Stamford Bridge since the formation switch to 3-4-3. I’m backing Diego Costa to Score Anytime and Chelsea to Win at 18/10.
Written by Chadley Nagel @Hollywoodbets