Chelsea Vs Manchester United, Tues 1 Mar 2011

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Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Cole, Essien, Lampard, Ramires, Anelka, Torres, Malouda.

Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Mikel, Bosingwa, Zhirkov, Kalou, McEachran.

Man Utd: Van der Sar, O'Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Carrick, Scholes, Nani, Hernandez, Rooney.

Subs: Kuszczak, Brown, Berbatov, Giggs, Fabio Da Silva, Rafael Da Silva, Gibson.

Carlo Ancelotti has insisted a Chelsea victory over Manchester United could be crucial to his side's season, despite admitting they had almost no chance of catching the Barclays Premier League leaders.

A game with United at Stamford Bridge is perennially billed as a title decider but it appears all Ancelotti's men can achieve on that front on Tuesday night is to dent their opponents' bid to depose them as champions.

Chelsea go into the game a massive 15 points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's side, whose only realistic challengers now look like second-placed Arsenal.

But with the Blues needing victory to climb back above Tottenham into fourth place, manager Ancelotti believes there is still plenty riding on the outcome.

"It's a very important game for them, for us, for the future of Manchester United and the future of Chelsea," said Ancelotti, whose side put a three-match winless run behind them last week by beating FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.

"We are excited to play this game. We arrive at it at a good moment. We have confidence to do our best and win it. It won't be easy.

"United have been, until now, the best team in the Premier League.

"For us, it's important to win, not just for the result but to improve our confidence after the victory at Copenhagen, where we played very well."

Captain John Terry claimed after that win that Chelsea could yet benefit from a United meltdown.

But Ancelotti said: "United can decide their own destiny.

"Our aim is different at this moment. Our aim is still to compete with them.

"We are not mathematically out so we have to keep believing.

"But we need also to be honest, it would be difficult for us to close the gap.

"We want to arrive in the top four - this is our aim."


United are widely considered to lead the Premier League without having played particularly well for much of the season but Ancelotti was complimentary about their performances.

"They've played consistently," he said, acutely aware his side have failed to do the same.

"They've only lost one league game and are playing focused, concentrated.

"That's why they're top of the table."

For the fourth time in the last five games, Ancelotti's big selection decision revolves around whether to play Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, or both.

Confirming only that both would "be involved" at some stage against United, Ancelotti added: "They can play together without problem. We're working on that in training.

"They don't have a problem playing with each other."

Nicolas Anelka appeared to seal his place in the starting line-up with a deadly double against the Danes.

However, most of the Frenchman's goals have come away from home this season.

Ancelotti said: "Anelka can show his quality when he has space and, at home, it's more difficult for him to find the space.

"Against United, we won't have a lot of space but, if we can move well at the right time, we can find the space to counter-attack them.

"He can show his quality."

Wayne Rooney has been cleared to play at Stamford Bridge.

As anticipated, football's complex disciplinary rules have allowed Rooney to escape further sanction for elbowing Wigan's James McCarthy at the DW Stadium on Saturday.

Once referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a free-kick for the incident, it was always going to be long odds against additional sanctions being applied.

As world governing body FIFA remain implacably opposed to the use of video technology they frown severely on matches being re-refereed, no matter how obvious the mistake.

Consequently, once the FA had contacted Clattenburg to establish the free-kick he awarded was for a clash he felt Rooney instigated, there was little option other than to declare the case closed - as unsatisfactory as that may seem.

Chelsea boss Ancelotti has reacted with commendable restraint, knowing Rooney could well end the Blues' minor remaining title hopes at Stamford Bridge.

"I think so," said the Italian when asked whether it was fair that Rooney escaped.

"If this is the rules and the FA decide this, I am happy to play against Rooney."

The question is, will Ferguson actually select the 25-year-old in a game where victory would open up an 18-point gap on the champions?

After all, whilst Rooney took his seasonal tally to seven on Saturday, Javier Hernandez responded to being offered a starting berth by scoring twice to take his total to 13.

Dimitar Berbatov was on the bench despite bagging 20 this term, so whilst it would still be a major surprise if Rooney, whose temperament is now under fresh scrutiny, was axed, Ferguson certainly has options in attack, even if his squad is still badly affected by injury.

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

Premier League
Manchester United

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