Sir Alex Ferguson and Rafael Benitez meet for the first time in three years - Michael Cox previews the tactical battle.
Manchester United v Chelsea
Sunday 16:30, ITV1
Match Odds: Manchester United 1.824/5, Chelsea 4.84/1, The Draw 4.03/1.
After their huge disappointment against Real Madrid, Manchester United will be even keener to taste domestic cup glory this season - and because of the manner of Tuesday night's defeat, there's no reason for their players to feel down.
Regardless of your view of Nani's dismissal, or United's efforts with ten men, there's no question that they defended brilliantly for the first hour. Whereas Sir Alex Ferguson's side were defensively suspect at the start of the season, they've quietly recorded four consecutive clean sheets in the league, and there's no reason they can't take that form into the FA Cup against Chelsea.
Ferguson's decision to omit Wayne Rooney in midweek means there'll be extra attention paid to his team selection. There's no real reason Rooney should be left out for a second consecutive match - the decision on Tuesday night made sense, because Ferguson wanted Danny Welbeck to pressure Xabi Alonso, a highly effective tactic, while Rooney had defended poorly against Real Madrid on the flank in the first leg. Here, with Chelsea lacking an Alonso-style deep-lying playmaker and Rooney having a decent record in his clashes against Chelsea (and often doing well against Jon Obi Mikel in that deep midfield zone), he'll probably start.
Welbeck could be moved to the left, but Ashley Young will be hopeful of a start. On the right, Antonio Valencia has frequently played superbly against Ashley Cole, and will expect to be selected despite his poor recent run of form.
Ferguson has often named hugely surprising starting XIs in the FA Cup - at this stage two years ago he named seven defenders in the side for the 2-0 win over Arsenal - but there's no need for huge rotation following the European exit. Freshening up the attacking part of the side should be sufficient - on that note, it's worth pointing out that Robin van Persie has gone off the boil in recent weeks. He's not undroppable.
Rafael Benitez is likely to get a hostile reception at Old Trafford - but he's used to that from his own supporters anyway. He'll probably select the more defensive format of his side, which involves Mikel playing deep in midfield alongside Frank Lampard, and Ramires tucked in on the right. This system performed poorly against City, with Ramires unable to break forward and leaving all the attacking to Eden Hazard on the left. However, Benitez will probably want to defend against Patrice Evra and attack Rafael da Silva, so will replicate the front six from that 2-0 defeat the last time Chelsea were in Manchester.
Benitez has a decision to make upfront - Fernando Torres' record is now one goal (against Brentford) in his last 13 appearances, and Demba Ba is surely a better option, with Juan Mata behind.
At the back, Benitez may recall Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back, possibly with moving Branislav Ivanovic inside. Even if Chelsea start defensively, it helps to have an attack-minded right-back from the outset - Benitez has previously wasted substitutions on that position when trying to prompt a positive shift in the second half.
There are two key battles that should decide the pattern of this FA Cup quarter-final. The first is Rafael against Chelsea's left-winger - probably Hazard. Rafael has improved defensively this season, and on Tuesday he showed he's not afraid to break forward, even against an attacker of the calibre of Cristiano Ronaldo. Hazard - assuming he starts - can be suspect defensively, and United overloaded Chelsea's left superbly in the first ten minutes at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, creating two goals with attacks down that side. I'll back Rafael to open the goalscoring at 60.059/1.
Second, Michael Carrick should play close to Mata. Ferguson says Carrick is enjoying his best season in a Manchester United shirt, and he's been very good at stopping opposition playmakers - not always getting goalside of them, but communicating with the centre-backs to minimise the space in that zone. Again, Mata isn't always reliable defensively, and Carrick may get space to create.
I think United are strong favourites here - their defensive work in recent weeks has been impressive, and with Chelsea struggling for goals upfront, I'll back the home side to win to nil at 3.412/5.