The Big Match Tactical View: Chelsea v Man Utd
The FA Cup fifth round's final tie takes place on Monday night at Stamford Bridge, between two of the Premier League's top six. Michael Cox and Alan Thompson preview the action...
"Just as Romelu Lukaku punished the attack-minded positioning of Arsenal’s Sead Kolasinac in the previous round, he might do the same here to Marcos Alonso"
Chelsea v Manchester United
Monday 19:30, BBC One.
Match Odds: Chelsea [2.02], Man Utd [4.0], The Draw [3.7].
Chelsea start Monday's FA Cup tie as favourites, but these sides have experienced very different fortunes over the past couple of months. Maurizio Sarri, having made a positive start at Chelsea, now seems under pressure after a couple of major defeats, while Manchester United are revitalised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and could prove dangerous on the break here.
Chelsea to dominate possession
That's likely to be the pattern of the game - United playing on the counter, and Chelsea dominating possession with their determined short build-up play, looking to draw United into them before passing through their lines quickly. Sarri remains committed to his 4-3-3 system with Jorginho as the holding midfielder, despite various opponents pressing him effectively this season.
Jorginho will be the play Solskjaer has paid most attention to ahead of this clash. In some matches against big sides this season - notably the victory away at Tottenham, and also the FA Cup win over Arsenal - Solskjaer has played Jesse Lingard as the central attacker, asking him to press the opposition's deepest midfielder, with Marcus Rashford moving to a wider position. Lingard is out injured here, but Solskjaer might take a similar approach.
Mata to mark Jorginho again?
The problem is that he's rather short of attacking players - Anthony Martial is another who suffered an injury in the 2-0 loss to PSG and is out for around a fortnight, while Alexis Sanchez is also doubtful. Solskjaer could therefore be forced into playing Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata alongside Rashford - hardly a disastrous situation, but not quite his optimum attacking trio.
If that's the case, Solskjaer could ask Mata to play in the centre, doing a job on Jorginho. Although not his natural role, he was used in a similar manner by Jose Mourinho in the league meeting between these sides, with some success. Lukaku was excellent from the right in the previous round against Arsenal and could play there again here, leaving Rashford to play from the left.
Matic v Kante
The midfield trio is likely to be Solskjaer's usual three. Paul Pogba will burst forward from a left-centre position into the box, while Ander Herrera will probably sit deeper than usual, because he'll be asked to help mark Eden Hazard, who likes drifting into inside-left positions. Nemanja Matic will play the holding role against his former side, and will have to watch the runs of his old midfield colleague N'Golo Kante.
Defensively, Luke Shaw will need to keep an eye of Pedro Rodriguez's runs inside from the right flank, while United's centre-backs - probably Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, but maybe Chris Smalling and Phil Jones - will be up against Gonzalo Higuain, who has had a decent impact since his loan move from Juventus, and Is combining well with Hazard.
Familiar XI for Sarri
From Sarri's perspective, there are few question marks. He's tended to play the same XI whenever fit, and the only major question mark is whether Ross Barkley or Mateo Kovacic starts in the left-centre midfield role. Barkley has nudged ahead in the queue but made a terrible error in last week's huge defeat at Manchester City, so Kovacic may return.
An interesting battle could come down Chelsea's left flank. Just as Lukaku punished the attack-minded positioning of Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac in the previous round, he might do the same here to Marcos Alonso, who relentlessly overlaps ahead of Eden Hazard but then finds himself badly out of position.
This feels like a game where Solskjaer needs to demonstrate his tactical acumen, especially after the disappointing defeat to PSG. He knows exactly how Sarri's Chelsea will play, and it should be within his capabilities to find an adequate solution.
It's worth remembering, incidentally, that for the first time, FA Cup fifth round ties won't go to a replay - this will be decided on the night.
I'm very surprised to see that Chelsea are close to evens for this game - that strikes me as a strange price for a side in something of a slump, against a dynamic counter-attacking side like United. I'll lay Chelsea at [2.02].
The Betfair Trader's View - Alan Thompson
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 11 game unbeaten run came to an end against French Champions PSG on Tuesday evening and it will be interesting to see if the Reds can bounce back as they travel to south west London in the FA Cup to take on a Chelsea side that have been struggling of late.
The Blues were hammered and embarrassed for the second successive league away game as Manchester City put six past them without reply and that was on the back of a 4-0 defeat at Bournemouth in their previous away day. As bad as their away form is, fortunately for them this is at home where they remain very strong, Maurizio Sarri’s side have won their last five at Stamford Bridge and the only team to win there this season is Leicester City.
United though are on a six match winning run away from home in all competitions - they haven’t won seven in a row since 2002 - and they would like nothing more than to keep that run going and avenge their defeat in last season’s FA Cup final.
Make no mistake, this is a huge game for both sides but for Manchester United it’s a massive week, it looks like they are going out of the Champions League (barring a miracle in Paris), defeat here sees their FA Cup dream over and that would only leave them a fight for a top four finish with Chelsea and Arsenal.
I think we could be in for a long night on Monday evening, possibly going all the way to penalties. However, I don’t see it being 0-0 so rather than backing the draw at [3.7], I will be dutch backing 1-1 at [8.0] and 2-2 at [16.0] in the Correct Score market giving approximate dutched odds of [5.4].