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Manchester United vs. Chelsea: 5 Keys to Title Showdown at Old Trafford

Sean DowlingContributor IIIMay 5, 2011

Manchester United vs. Chelsea: 5 Keys to Title Showdown at Old Trafford

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09:  Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United and Carlo Ancelotti manager of Chelsea look on during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on August 9, 2009 in London, England.
    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Chelsea face Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford in a game that will most likely decide the Barclays English Premier League title for the 2010-11 season.

    The rivalry will be hotly contested as usual, after United dumped the Blues from Europe's most prestigious club competition last month and are sitting three points clear at the top of the EPL table.

    Many questions surround the build up as two of England's juggernauts will meet at the "Theatre of Dreams" with just two matches remaining in the season after Sunday's showdown.

Officiating

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Referee Olegario Benquerenca shows a red card to Ramires of Chelsea during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 12, 2011 in Manchester, Eng
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    It's a travesty that the referee gets more publicity than the result of some the biggest games in European football sometimes. No doubt this game will have controversial calls and decisions.

    The official for the massive tie on Sunday is Howard Webb. He has World Cup experience, and is no stranger to big matches. Hopefully it's one of his better efforts and there isn't much to discuss in post-match interviews.

    Sir Alex is usually not happy with the officials in games vs. Chelsea as he launched an attack on Martin Atkinson after the Red Devils lost to the Blues at Stamford Bridge 2-1, on March 1st.

    Questionable calls also played a critical role in the Champions League Quarterfinal first leg as Chelsea felt they deserved a penalty after Patrice Evra took down Ramires in stoppage time. Alberto Mallenco failed to see what was a clear penalty, thus resulting in Manchester United winning, and taking a slim lead into the second leg at Old Trafford.

El Nino and Drogba Need to Start

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 23:  Florent  Malouda (L) of Chelsea celebrates with teammates Fernando Torres and Ashley Cole after scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on A
    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Fernando Torres needs to keep starting games. The 50 million euro man finally scored, but he needs to continue to get valuable playing time in the biggest games to contintue to build his confidence and positivity in the squad. El Nino starting on the bench would be detrimental to the young striker's psyche.

    Carlo must figure out how to effectively use both Drogba and Torres, while supplementing Kalou and Nico with Malouda into the final third.

    I'm anxious to see how Carlo fields his lineup. He is generally conservative in his counter-attacking Italian style, but Chelsea must go fit if they want to retain their crown.

Chicarito or Berbatov with Rooney to Start?

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 08:  Dimitar Berbatov of Manchester United (R) celebrates with Javier Hernandez as he scores their third goal during the FA Community Shield match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on August 8, 2010 in Londo
    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Chicarito has had a superb first season in England with 12 goals in the Premier League. I feel he benefits greatly from remarkable build-up from Giggs, Nani and Rooney; but nevertheless, he puts himself in the right positions to score and finish in space from close.

     Berbatov is rumored to leave in the summer and has struggled with a groin injury lately, but is still the EPL's top scorer with 21 goals.

    United are more formidable with Berbatov starting with Rooney; and Chicarito coming off the bench with 20-30 minutes left to play. Berbatov holds up play better as a focal point, and is more technically gifted and creative.

    Anxious to see how Fergie uses the "Mexecutioner" and Berbatov on Sunday, and whether or not Michael Owen makes a late cameo appearance.

Nani vs Ivanovic

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Branislav Ivanovic of Chelsea competes with Nani of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 12, 2011 in Manchester, E
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    This is one of the most fascinatin matchups within the matchup.

    Nani has a dynamic ability to influence games with his pace down flanks. With his talents that include but are not limited to: running at defenders, sending in useful crosses and shots from distance, he poses serious questions for the best defences in the world.

    If Ivanovic can keep him contained, Chelsea have a real chance at securing three points from Old Trafford.

Carrick the Friendly Ghost

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 01:  Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal shoots past Michael Carrick of MAnchester United to score their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium on May 1, 2011 in London,
    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Michael Carrick is often criticized for disappearing from big matches for extended periods of time.

    Lately he has played okay, but he still hasn't returned to the score sheet for the last 15 months. Carrick is also never discussed with the elite midfielders in world football. 

    United will need a good effort in his holding defensive role if they are to beat Chelsea on Sunday.

    Look for the Manchester United midfield to include Park Ji Sung, Giggsy, Nani and the "Friendly Ghost" on Sunday.

Prediction

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    MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on April 12, 2011 in Manchester, Engla
    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    The Red Devils have beat Chelsea three out of the last four, but Chelsea are due for payback after their Champions League exit.

     The Blues entire season is on the line. In addition to Carlo Ancelloti's job possibly being on the line. Man United still have the Blaugrana to play at the end of this month at Wembley for the trophy with the big ears. 

    A draw with two games to play, would suit the Red Devils well, and have them in prime position for their record 19th EPL title. The pressure is squarely on Chelsea to go to Old Trafford and win.

    The game should be tight to start. Chelsea to win 2-1 with a late winner from Didier Drogba. The Blues will go to the top of Premier League table by goal difference, by the slimmest margin with two games remaining on the schedule.

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