Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Monday night in an FA Cup fifth round clash.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be looking to bounce back with a win, with the Norwegian coach having suffered his first defeat as Red Devils boss against PSG in the Champions League last time out. However, the loss of Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to injury will come as a real blow to the visitors.
Maurizio Sarri needs a positive result too. The Blues have lost three of their last four Premier League games. The Italian manager now finds himself under pressure in west London, but the boost of cup progression could spark his ailing side back into form.
Monday night promises an exciting encounter between two of the heavyweights of English football. Ahead of the game, Football FanCast have taken a look at the key tactical factors that could decide the outcome of the match…
Solskjaer has made it plain that he prefers Marcus Rashford to Romelu Lukaku, so it will almost certainly be the 21-year-old Englishman leading the line against Chelsea. The striker has been in fine form in recent weeks and will fancy his chances against the Blues’ unconvincing backline.
With his pace, Rashford can offer a constant threat by running in behind the Chelsea defence and his athleticism and intelligent movement will surely test David Luiz in the heart of the home side’s backline.
The Brazilian defender is more than capable of losing focus and committing a costly error, and Rashford will be alert to that fact.
However, Luiz also has the capacity to hurt United. The 31-year-old has great creativity and vision and the ability to play accurate long balls over the top of the opposition defence with regularity. Rashford must be diligent in harrying, pressing and closing down Luiz to ensure that he isn’t given the time and space to pick out these potentially killer passes.
Jurgen Klopp has gotten quite inventive with his excuses this season. FFC’s James Jones think he has no one but himself to blame for Liverpol’s poor form in the video below…
Sarri’s team have a very defined style that the manager trusts. This system is heavily dependent upon midfielder Jorginho. The 27-year-old sits at the base of the Blues’ midfield, where he can see a lot of the ball, dictate the pace of the game, and orchestrate play.
If allowed to perform this role unchallenged, the 13-cap Italy international can pull the Red Devils apart. However, when Jorginho has been targeted by opponents this season, Chelsea have often come unstuck.
As Arsenal recently demonstrated, tasking a man with the duty of constantly marking Jorginho and putting the midfielder off his rhythm has a devastating effect on Chelsea. With Jorginho’s limited mobility and physicality exposed, Chelsea lose their lynchpin and then begin to look listless and bereft of fresh ideas.
Solskjaer must appropriate this tactic himself and set one of his men on Jorginho. Ander Herrera would be the perfect candidate for this task, as he possesses the requisite pace, agility, stamina and work rate to unsettle Jorginho for 90 minutes.
Olivier Giroud’s reputation as an impact substitute is as stellar as they come. The Frenchman has a knack of coming off the bench and reinvigorating his team by bringing a new dimension to their attack.
Giroud is an extremely effective target man, able to hold up the ball and bring his teammates into play in the final third. The likes of Eden Hazard and Willian can then thrive off linking up with the former Arsenal striker.
United’s injury worries mean that Alexis Sanchez and Lukaku are both now likely to feature in the starting XI, the Belgium international reprising his role on the right. This will of course mean a weakened bench for Solskjaer to be able to call upon, but Juan Mata still offers a lot of quality if he is needed.
The former Chelsea midfielder lacks pace, so won’t offer the Red Devils a great deal of threat on the counter-attack. However, if Chelsea begin to sit deep, then the Spaniard’s vision and creativity could prove key to breaking down the Blues’ lines of defence.
The introduction of Mata may change the pace of game, but that could play into Solskjaer’s hands. The addition of Mata’s guile and invention offers the United manager a plan B he could decide to turn to – a decision which could turn the tide of the battle on the pitch.