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Rediff.com  » Sports » United face Chelsea for FA Cup in grudge match

United face Chelsea for FA Cup in grudge match

May 16, 2007 14:02 IST
A crowd of 90,000 will watch Manchester United take on Chelsea in the biggest grudge match of the season on Saturday, when England's new champions face the deposed rulers in the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.

Spurred on by the attacking flair of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, United have already put an end to two consecutive years of Chelsea domination of the Premier League.

Now they want to rub salt in the wounds by completing the Double at the expense of the free-spending London club, watched by a full house in the first big game at the new Wembley.

The stage, finally ready at a cost of more than 750 million pounds ($1.49 billion), could not have been better set by the Football Association had they tried.

United and Chelsea's rivalry has dominated the domestic season and for it to come to a head in the FA Cup is a dream final for the ruling body and a global television audience.

The stakes could hardly be higher, with the trophy being only the larger part of the prize for the winners.

For United, it is a chance to bring the once mighty Chelsea fully to their knees, to assert themselves once again as the power in the land and to put a big marker down for next season.

They clearly have the firepower to achieve that, even without injury-prone French striker Louis Saha.

Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs, who played when United completed a 1994 Double by thrashing Chelsea 4-0 in the final, and Paul Scholes were all spared until the last half-hour of Sunday's 1-0 defeat by West Ham United, ensuring they will be fresh on Saturday.

The only regret will be from captain Gary Neville, who is sidelined with an ankle problem and misses the club's chance to add to a record 11 FA Cups.

CHELSEA REGRETS

Chelsea, who have more serious fitness worries, also have several points to prove -- and none bigger than their belief that injuries were to blame for the loss of their title.

The fractured skull suffered by goalkeeper Petr Cech in October and the back surgery undergone by captain John Terry in December cost them dear in dropped points in the title race.

Those absences, along with Joe Cole's long-term injuries, left Chelsea exposed at the back and wholly reliant up front on Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, who responded magnificently with 32 goals in all competitions.

It was still not enough, even with midfielder Frank Lampard chipping in with 21 goals for the season.

Victory on Saturday would at least make it a cup double for the Blues, who beat a young Arsenal side in February's League Cup final, and would ruin United's end-of-term party.

However, they will have to do so with another makeshift side as Germany midfielder Michael Ballack, Ukraine striker Andriy Shevchenko and Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho are all out.

Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel is a major doubt, while Dutch winger Arjen Robben may just be fit enough for the bench after knee surgery.

"The reality is I don't think we will have 16 players for the final," coach Jose Mourinho lamented after Sunday's 1-1 draw with Everton.

The contrast could not be more marked with a bullish Ferguson, who told his club's Web site (www.manutd.com): "We're going there with good confidence, we've won the league and touch wood I'll get the players I need for next Saturday."

Probable teams

United: Edwin van der Sar; John O'Shea, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra; Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs; Alan Smith, Wayne Rooney

Chelsea: Petr Cech; Paulo Ferreira, Michael Essien, John Terry, Ashley Cole; Claude Makelele, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joe Cole; Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou

Referee: Steve Bennett

Trevor Huggins
Source:
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