Sir Alex takes the leaders in search of a first win at Stamford Bridge since 2002 in Tuesday’s rearranged clash...
Ailing champions Chelsea are 15 points behind United in the table, albeit with a game in hand, and third place would appear to be the best they can achieve this term, though they may feel they are back in the title race if they win on Tuesday. The Blues appeared to have turned the corner after their dramatic mid-season slump, but have won neither of their last two league games and are out of the FA Cup. United moved four points clear of Arsenal at the summit on Saturday with a biggest away win of the campaign, 4-0 at Wigan. The Reds are perhaps overdue some good fortune in west London, as several good performances in recent seasons have not been rewarded with three points.
Ins and outs
Ashley Cole is set to play for Chelsea after being reprimanded for a training ground incident involving an air rifle, while fit-again defender Yury Zhirkov could make his first league appearance since November. Alex and Yossi Benayoun are both sidelined, and boss Carlo Ancelotti will decide which two of Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka to start with. Ryan Giggs (hamstring) should be available for United, but the game comes too soon for Rio Ferdinand (calf) and Jonny Evans (ankle). Javier Hernandez may have put himself in the reckoning for another starting berth after his brace at the DW Stadium.
With Torres yet to get off the mark for his new club and Drogba reportedly unhappy at being left out, Anelka has stepped up to the plate for Ancelotti. The French striker has enjoyed a new lease of life at Stamford Bridge after years of apparent discontent at other clubs, and is Chelsea’s leading scorer this term with 16 goals in all competitions, including both in the 2-0 Champions League last-16 win at FC Copenhagen last week.
Ancelotti is a man under pressure. On Monday he denied losing control of his squad following the Cole incident, but speculation is rife that he’ll leave the club at the end of the season.