The 4 Key Player Duels Between Chelsea and Manchester United

Joe Krishnan@joekrishnanContributor IAugust 26, 2013

The 4 Key Player Duels Between Chelsea and Manchester United

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    After a decade of rivalry between the two sides, Manchester United and Chelsea will enter Old Trafford tonight having both changed managers simultaneously for the first time in Premier League history.

    The hotly-anticipated clash between the two giants of English football will hopefully produce the same kind of determination and excitement that the previous encounters have. 

    Chelsea managed to secure a crucial 1-0 victory in this fixture last season back in April, when Juan Mata's 87th-minute strike stole all three points before Manchester United defender Rafael was sent off in controversial circumstances late on.

    And the Bank Holiday clash tonight is all set to be packed with action and drama, especially with Jose Mourinho at the helm.

    But David Moyes is unlikely to back down as he faces his toughest test yet as Red Devils manager, and will be desperate to continue their 100 percent start to the season.

    It's sure to be a magnificent game, and we've taken a look at some of the key battles ahead of the crunch encounter in Manchester, so please join the discussion by posting your views at the bottom of the page.

Robin Van Persie vs. John Terry

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    Chelsea will know what Robin van Persie can do, having seen the Dutchman hold an impressive record against the Blues in recent years. 

    The 29-year-old scored twice for Arsenal in an eight-goal thriller a couple of seasons ago, and scored the winning goal in the 3-2 defeat of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge a year ago. He already has two goals in the current campaign, both of which came against Swansea a week ago.

    With a powerful left boot and excellent technique, the former Feyenoord forward possesses the ability to create a match-winning moment at any point, and therefore it's key for Mourinho that his captain John Terry stops him from creating space.

    The world-class centre-back has returned to the first team fold under Mourinho and has looked assured in the opening first two fixtures against Hull and Aston Villa. Coming up against van Persie will give Terry the advantage, as he is familiar with his playing style and can track his movement as a result.

    Despite his lack of pace, the 32-year-old's ability to read the game will allow him to keep tight to the ex-Arsenal striker and ensure he is not allowed any space to roam. Terry knows that if he keeps van Persie quiet, Chelsea have a superb chance of winning.

Shinji Kagawa vs. Ramires

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    The tricky Japanese playmaker has only shown glimpses of his true ability since arriving at Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund last summer, but Moyes will have been encouraged by his improvements during preseason.

    The 24-year-old only featured intermittently in the previous campaign due to injury and lack of form, but is backed to play a key part in Moyes' attempted defence of United's Premier League title.

    With superb dribbling ability and a passing prowess that can split the opposition in half, the United players will be looking to Kagawa to create chances for van Persie and co.

    But he will have to shrug off Chelsea's tireless Brazilian affectionately nicknamed "The Blue Kenyan" due to his incredible levels of stamina. 

    Ramires is your typical box-to-box midfielder, tracking back to help the team out, and he has shown he is not afraid to pick up a booking if he is needed to. But with his blistering pace and tendency to go on surging runs, Kagawa may struggle to track the 26-year-old's mazy forays through the midfield.

    Expect these two to be plugging away at each other until the final whistle, with Ramires certainly capable of limiting Kagawa's influence on the game.

Eden Hazard vs. Rafael Da Silva

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    Manchester United fans will always be wondering what might have been when they come up against Belgian star Eden Hazard.

    The 22-year-old winger had a choice between the Red Devils, their rivals Manchester City and Chelsea after all three clubs agreed a £32 million fee with Ligue 1 outfit Lille. Eventually, after much delay and deliberation, Hazard chose Chelsea who had won the Champions League just a month before.

    And the explosive playmaker has lit up Stamford Bridge, becoming a fans' favourite due to his exciting, direct style where he likes to take on the opposition's players, and he enjoyed a fruitful debut season in the Premier League.

    In Monday's clash, he comes up against Rafael who certainly has the determination and speed to stop him—and on his day, is one of the division's best right-backs.

    But Hazard will be aware of his vulnerabilities, and will be looking to invite him into the challenge with the knowledge that Rafael picks up his fair share of cautions.

    This battle will consist of many one-on-one duels, with Hazard preferring to run at players rather than pass to a teammate. And it could be a long night for the Manchester United full-back if he is on form.

Fernando Torres vs. Nemanja Vidic

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    Perhaps you're one of the few fans who believe that Fernando Torres doesn't deserve to start against Manchester United, given that his fellow strike partners Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku enjoyed some success on Mondays over the course of last season.

    Or, like any Chelsea supporter, you're wishfully thinking that the Spaniard will kickstart his season with a goal at Old Trafford and return to his free-scoring form of the past.

    It's certainly possible, given that he netted 23 goals in all competitions in the last campaign.

    And it's fair to say the former Liverpool star is improving every day at Stamford Bridge, showing the kind of hunger that would prove to Mourinho he deserves to be number one choice at the club.

    With the creative force of Hazard, Oscar and Mata all ready to supply Torres with the ammunition he needs to score goals, he could potentially cause the Manchester United defence some problems as he looks to get off the mark for 2013-14.

    Being matched up against his former foe Nemanja Vidic could spell a problem for Torres, however.

    The Torres of old has caused the Serbian international all sorts of problems in previous clashes, but hasn't managed to trouble him in the blue shirt yet.

    Any aerial threat that the Spain international carries will be strongly contested by the towering centre-back, although Moyes should expect the 31-year-old to be occupied for the majority of the evening.