English Premier League leaders Manchester United will look to bounce back from its UEFA Champions League defeat in taking on Chelsea Sunday. This is a sixth-round proper in the FA Cup, where the winner will advance to the semifinal to take on the winner of Everton and Wigan Athletic.
The Blues are looking to bounce back from a loss in the Europa League at Steaua Bucuresti, but the task will be made all the more difficult having to travel to Old Trafford. After dropping its first match in the past 18 overall, the Red Devils will be determined for revenge.
However, Chelsea should put forth a sensational effort as the reigning champions and winners of three of the past four titles in the world's oldest association football competition.
Below is viewing information for this marquee match, as well as several predictions and developments to watch.
When: Sunday, March 10 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Where: Old Trafford, Manchester, England
TV: FOX Soccer and FOX Deportes in U.S., ITV and UTV in UK
Live Stream: LiveSoccerTV.com
If previous encounters between these two powerhouse clubs are any indication, this should be a high-scoring affair. The last meeting came in October in the Capital One Cup, in which the Blues emerged victorious by a count of 5-4 to avenge a defeat in the EPL just days before to United.
Sir Alex Ferguson's bunch would like nothing less than a dominant performance after exiting the Champions League in such disappointing fashion.
A controversial red card was given out to Nani in the 56th minute of the matchup with Real Madrid, as the Red Devils saw their 1-0 lead slip and eventually result in a loss after playing a man down.
Ferguson did not talk to the media after the match due to the disagreement with the call on Nani, and UEFA is now investigating the matter with respect to Ferguson's conduct.
Meanwhile, the loss in the round of 16 in the Europa League is no doubt disappointing for Chelsea, but manager Rafael Benitez dismissed any notions of looking ahead to this showdown with United, as reported by The Telegraph.
The Blues may have been victim of the proverbial "trap game" in the Europa League but should have a much more enthusiastic showing in Old Trafford. Otherwise, the fiery United bunch will dispose of them easily.
Key Player to Watch for Chelsea: Ashley Cole
As Ewan Roberts of Goal.com indicates, the veteran defensive stalwart has won the FA Cup more than any other player, lifting the trophy a record seven times.
Cole will be a huge part of the defensive effort to thwart the high-octane attack that the Red Devils routinely devastate opponents with.
Helping the cause will be Blues captain John Terry and Gary Cahill, but the onus will be on Cole to protect on the outside against the speedy wingers that United challenges with. Considering all the experience Cole has, he should be up to the task despite the fact that he's not quite as quick as he once was.
The future with Chelsea has been secure for Cole since January, when he inked a one-year contract extension due to a mutual desire to acquire more trophies.
This is a big opportunity to acquire an eighth FA Cup, and Cole will be a key contributor should the Blues pull it off again.
Key Player to Watch for Manchester United: Wayne Rooney
The superstar was not in the starting lineup for the club's most recent fixture, and it is unclear what Ferguson plans to do with him this time around—especially considering the result of not starting the veteran last time.
Robin van Persie's prowess on offense has complicated Rooney's role with the club, as he has had to play more defense as opposed to his typical turn as the go-to player for goals.
Whispers of the 27-year-old's departure have persisted. Owen Gibson of the Guardian points out that Ferguson has questioned Rooney's fitness over the past year and that the club is said to be considering offers for him.
But Ferguson attempted to be reassuring about Rooney's future, as documented by BBC Sport's official Twitter page:
BBC Sport @BBCSport
Wayne Rooney will still be at Manchester United next season, Sir Alex Ferguson tells a news conference #mufc #bbcsportsday3/8/2013, 9:50:37 AM
It remains to be seen how Rooney will be utilized in this fixture, but it is sure to be an interesting storyline to follow. Rooney must respond with a strong performance if he gets the chance to play. Otherwise, he will risk not seeing the pitch with more frequency.
Prediction: Manchester United 3, Chelsea 2
Both clubs will be very hungry to win this one, but home advantage will ultimately be the difference for the Red Devils.
Van Persie has struggled to find his form recently as the leader of the most explosive British attack, scoring just once in eight matches. A lot of frustration in that regard will likely come at the expense of the Blues. Expect him to find the net in this one at least once, especially if he isn't part of the starting XI, as Roberts projects will be the case.
Forward Chicharito has also lit up Chelsea in the previous six encounters, scoring five times in that span.
The Blues don't have quite the firepower that United has, yet don't be surprised if Chelsea jumps out to the early lead.
United has struggled to start strong at times this season, but the Blues have been unable to capitalize on many a victory in 2012-13. That should lend itself to a second-half charge by Manchester United and a stirring comeback triumph.
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