Who: Manchester United FC vs. Chelsea FC
What: English Premier League Matchweek 36
Where: Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, UK
When: Sunday, May 5, 2013
Weather: The Weather Channel forecast
Time: 16:00 GMT/11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT
Worldwide TV Streams and Channels: LiveTVScoccer.com
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Deportes (US); Sky Go, Sky Sports 3D, Sky Sports 1/HD (UK)
Radio: SiriusXM SIRI 94 (Internet 94), BBC Radio 5 Live
Referee: Howard Webb
3-Way Odds: Manchester United +110, Chelsea +200, Draw +220
Total: Over 2½ -136, Under 2½ Even
Decimal Odds: Manchester United 2.10, Chelsea 3.00, Draw 3.20
Decimal Total: Over 2½ 1.77, Under 2½ 2.00
Fractional Odds: Manchester United 11-10, Chelsea 2-1, Draw 11-5
Fractional Total: Over 2½ 73-100, Under 2½ 1-1
Source: Sportsbook.com (Netherlands Antilles, Curaçao)
For the fifth time this year, Manchester United and Chelsea will lock horns, with the match being of no real importance to the Red Devils while for the Blues it means the world with a UEFA Champions League place still in their sights.
Chelsea (19-8-7, 65 points) heads into the weekend in third place in the English Premier League, just one point ahead of fourth-place Arsenal (64 points) and three points ahead of fifth-place Tottenham Hotspur (62 points). The Blues would slip back into fourth place with a loss and wins by their two biggest London rivals.
Before the Blues and United meet at Old Trafford on Sunday, Spurs will have played Southampton (ESPN2, 10 a.m. ET/7 a.m. PT) and the Gunners will have faced QPR (Fox Soccer Channel, 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT) on Saturday. Arsenal would be able to jump over Chelsea with a win and Tottenham being able to draw level on points with the European champions with a victory of its own over the Saints.
However, the Blues (34) still have a game in hand over Arsenal (35). And also worth noting: Chelsea will play Tottenham on May 8 in what may be a critical match at Stamford Bridge.
Playing at United at Old Trafford (15-0-2, 43 goals for, 17 goals against) has been more than a challenge for clubs in England's top flight over the last several years where Sir Alex Ferguson's side have been absolutely dominant.
The Blues hold a slight edge over the Premier League champions this year (2-1-1, 10 goals for nine goals against) having lost the previous league meeting at home on Oct. 29 (2-3), winning the fourth-round Capital One Cup game (5-4) three days later on Oct. 31 at Stamford Bridge, drawing their first FA Cup quarter-final (2-2) at United on March 10, and then winning the replay (1-0) in West London on April 1.
With Robin van Persie (25 EPL goals), Wayne Rooney (10) and Javier Hernández (eight), the Red Devils (27-4-4) have been an offensive juggernaut with a league-leading 79 goals, but it may surprise some to know that Chelsea is second in the Premier League in goals scored (68) and goals allowed (35) heading into this showdown of heavyweights.
United does have its share of injury woes entering Sunday's match with Darren Fletcher out for the year with a chronic bowel condition and Nemanja Vidić (calf), Paul Scholes (knee), Ashley Young (ankle) and Danny Welbeck (knee) all nursing injuries.
And while it may seem the Red Devils may not quite be as motivated as they would be with the Premier League crown sewn up, expect United to do everything possible to protect its home turf and keep its undefeated mark at home in tact.
After all, this is a Manchester United-Chelsea game.
Even with the nagging injuries, the Red Devils will have first-team Premier League Team of the Year honoree Van Persie, Rooney, Nani and Hernández all available on the attack, so Blues goalkeeper Petr Čech should be tested here.
Toss in a three more first-team Premier League Team of the Year members in goalkeeper David de Gea, defender Rio Ferdinand and midfielder Michael Carrick along with guys like Patrice Evra, Shinji Kagawa (five goals) and grizzled veteran Ryan Giggs, and you can see you can see why United cruised to the title this season.
And don't be surprised if United are the favorites with the oddsmakers again next season even if Chelsea does land José Mourinho from Real Madrid to replace likely outgoing interim manager Rafael Benítez.
The Blues come into the game with a much healthier roster than the home team with Oriol Romeu out for season and midfielder John Obi Mikel (hip) in question, but the 26-year-old Nigerian may be available for this contest.
Chelsea has its own pair of first-team Premier League Team of the Year players in Juan Mata (10 goals, 12 assists in EPL) and Eden Hazard (nine goals, nine assists) and toss in either Victor Moses—a front-runner for African Player of the Year—Oscar or Ramires and its easy to see the Blues attacking midfield can hang with anyone's on the European continent.
At striker, expect the rested Demba Ba to get the nod in Benítez's starting XI over Fernando Torres, who still is scoreless this calendar year in Premier League play, although the 29-year-old Spaniard has shined in international play as he did with the opening goal in Thursday's 3-1 Europa League second-leg semifinal win over FC Basel at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues (8-4-5 on the road, 31 goals for, 22 goals against) have been pretty hot lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games in all competitions. With a May 15 date with Benfica in Amsterdam in the Europa League final, Chelsea can become the first team to win UEFA's two big tournaments in reverse order should they be able to find a way to beat Óscar Cardozo and the feisty Benfiquistas.
With captain John Terry likely back on the pitch after sitting out again Basel, Ashley Cole returning to his left-back spot, César Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanović holding down the right side of the defensive back four, and the always brilliant Čech in goal, the Blues just may be able to hand champs their first home loss this season in this one.
In the defensive midfield, although Mikel will be possibly be available, expect emerging star David Luiz to get the nod in what be his new holding spot on the pitch with either Ramires or Frank Lampard in front of him.
Winning at Old Trafford—a feat only three clubs have done over the last three seasons (noisy neighbors Manchester City twice, Blackburn and Tottenham) in league play—is almost an impossibility no matter what the circumstances, so Chelsea may be satisfied with a draw and escaping with what may prove to be down the road an extremely valuable point.
As important as this game is for the Blues, the grueling schedule and home-field advantage will likely be the difference here. From a wagering standpoint, passing on the Red Devils with the small plus (+110) is just too hard to do given United's track record at home and mind-boggling zero home draws this season.
No matter what happens, this certainly promises to be good theater.
PREDICTION: Manchester United 2 Chelsea 1
BETS: Manchester United +110, Over 2½ -136
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