Manchester United: Antonio Valencia Will Be the Game Changer vs. Chelsea

Rikki SollisAnalyst IIFebruary 4, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  Antonio Valencia of Manchester United (C) beats Henrique Hilario of Chelsea to score their first goal during the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on August 8, 2010 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Manchester United face Chelsea this weekend in what could prove to be one of the more important fixtures of the season. United drew level on points with title rivals Man City this week, and will need to continue their good performances if they are to push themselves into first place.

Going into the match, Chelsea will be without two of their key players. Ashley Cole is set to serve a suspension following two yellow cards in his previous match against Swansea, and John Terry will be out with a knee injury. Surely this is the perfect opportunity for United's attack to run riot.

One player who has emerged as a real star for United this season is Antonio Valencia, and this weekend's game at Chelsea will be a prime opportunity for him to assert himself as United's current top winger. With Ashley Cole out, Valencia is likely to be up against either the young Ryan Bertrand or an out-of-position Jose Bosingwa—either of whom he would be more than happy to face.

The fact is while most fans have made a point of calling Michael Carrick the most underrated player in the United team, the real owner of this title would have been Valencia until a few weeks back. In the past couple of months he has established himself as one of the most important members of the side.

While Nani remains the most talented players at the club, Valencia's consistency has shone through and made him unplayable at times. In 11 EPL starts this season he has notched up nine assists and two goals.

I would maybe go as far to say that Valencia is the bet right midfielder in the EPL right now. His closest rivals would probably be the likes of Theo Walcott or Aaron Lennon, yet neither have shown the attacking threat which "Tony-V" has been showing week in, week out.

While Valencia's obvious weakness is his constant need to pull onto his right foot, this never seems to be an issue during games as he often nonchalantly wanders through the opposing defence only to be given enough time to switch to his right foot and take a shot on goal.

So why will he particularly be a game-changer against Chelsea? Well, as previously mentioned his marker is either going to be an inexperienced Bertrand or an out-of-position Bosingwa. More importantly, his ability to play a killer ball and pick out a player in the box will be a continual threat to Chelsea's Terry-less back line.

With mistake-prone David Luiz and new boy Gary Cahill likely to be starting, Valencia's creativity could cause continual havoc in the final third. Valencia's crossing is second to none, and the pairing of Luiz and Cahill could struggle to deal with this.

With Young coming back from injury, you have to wonder how he will force his way back into the side with Valencia in the form that he is. Valencia is currently the most important player in the United team, and he will continue to assert this against Chelsea on Sunday. Expect goals.