Following their disappointing 1-0 loss at home in the first leg of this tie, Chelsea FC are faced with an obvious must-win situation on Tuesday. To advance in the UEFA Champions League, they must defeat Manchester United at Old Trafford. Unlike most Champions League ties, this second leg has no myriad of scenarios, and is instead very simple. If Chelsea wins, they advance. If they fail to win, they don't.
As disappointing as the first leg of this tie was for Chelsea, it was more or less a microcosm for their entire season. Fernando Torres is still yet to score in a blue shirt, while Chelsea have been out of the English Premier League title race for quite some time. At this point, they're not exactly expected to pull off big wins. For such an incredible collection of talent, Chelsea have disappointed all year. It almost goes without saying that one more disappointment will cost Carlo Ancelotti has job.
For Manchester United, Rafael da Silva is their only doubt, and he has not yet been ruled out of the match. United may not be the best team in the world, but they are almost beyond any shadow of a doubt the deepest team in the world. Alex Ferguson is a master of rotating his lineup and tailoring his team selections and formations to specific opponents, so with a full roster available, he must feel like a kid in a candy shop. Unfortunately, United's healthy roster and Ferguson's selection policies make my job very hard.
I don't know who Ferguson is going to pick on Tuesday, and neither do you. Very intelligent and informed people try to pick United's first team and tactics and get it wrong all the time. It's okay to admit it; Alex Ferguson is smarter than I am. He's smarter than almost all of the people he manages against. He's certainly smarter than 99 percent of the bloggers and journalists that cover his team.
I know his team will include Edwin van der Sar, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, and Nemanja Vidic. I am fairly certain that his lineup will also include Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher, and Park Ji-Sung. My guesses for the other players in the lineup are Antonio Valencia, Ryan Giggs, and Michael Carrick. I will not be the least bit ashamed of myself if only those first four players are correct.
Ancelotti's selection is also a bit of a question mark, and once again, the biggest question centers around Fernando Torres. He did not start against Wigan, but was it because he was being rested for Champions League or because Ancelotti is finally fed up with the fact that he doesn't score? Based on last week, I assume the former, but it's possible that Torres is finally out of favor.
In the end, Ancelotti will probably pick the same lineup he did last week, and why not? It obviously worked. His team didn't hit the back of the net, but they were the better team. Finishing and the referee failed them, not the formation and tactics. Anyone who watched the game knows that Chelsea were the better side. Sorry, United fans. It's the truth.
Though, despite the fact that Chelsea were the better team last week, who is going to bet against United at the Theater of Dreams? Possibly my alcoholic, gambling addict ex-wife, but not I.