Chelsea v Manchester United, Premier League, November 8, 2009
The top two of the Premier League face off on Sunday afternoon in a match that should go a long way to deciding the destination of the title and the home side appear to be favourites to stretch their lead over the champions. (Chelsea are 5/4 favourites for the Premier League, Manchester United are 9/4.)
With both sides sealing qualification to the Champions League knockout stages this match has come at an opportune time for either team to establish themselves as favourites for the league. The matches in midweek told us a little more about both teams: Didier Drogba (7/1 to score a brace) will be licking his lips ahead of this match, the Ivorian is in incredible form and the Manchester United defence looks vulnerable.
Considering it took Drogba until Boxing Day last season to score in the Premier League, the change in fortune for the big striker could not be more marked under Carlo Ancelotti. After claiming a brace at the Vicente Calderon in midweek, Drogba has now scored five in his last four games and appears to be unstoppable.
In truth Ancelottiâ€™s side as a whole look ready to push on with a number of players in fine fettle. Joe Cole (11/4 to score) is revelling in the hole behind the strikers, Nicolas Anelka (11/4 to score & Chelsea win) has continued the form that saw him finish as top goal scorer in the Premier League last season and Frank Lampard (7/2 to score & Chelsea win) has also begun to regain his scoring touch in recent weeks.
It may be a little early to judge Ancelotti but the results since the defeat at Aston Villa have been very impressive. Chelsea have now scored 19 goals in five games and the fourth goal against Bolton in the Premier League win last week was one of the finest team work goals seen in some time.
Roman Abramovich has finally got a beautiful Chelsea team to watch and if Ancelotti can bring home the silverware, the Russian oligarch may have finally cracked the football riddle.
United of course will be determined to see off their nearest rivals and Sir Alex Fergusonâ€™s side will battle for a result with Darren Fletcher (20/1 to score first) set for his Premier League return after an injury lay-off. Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov (16/5 for either Rooney or Berbatov to score first) and Michael Carrick should also return to the starting line-up after the latter two were not involved at all in the 3-3 draw with CSKA Moscow.
Sir Alex Fergusonâ€™s side once again showed their powers of recovery against the Russians on Tuesday night but some of their defensive play was poor and they can ill afford a repeat at Stamford Bridge. With Rio Ferdinand expected to miss the match along with Nemanja Vidic, it will be a real test for Jonny Evans and Wes Brown. (United are 5/2 to keep a clean sheet)
The champions responded well to the defeat at Liverpool a fortnight ago but despite the attacking quality of Rooney, Berbatov, Michael Owen (8/1 to score last) and emerging players such as Gabriel Obertan and Federico Macheda, there are still question marks following the high-profile summer departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez. Last weekâ€™s laboured win over Blackburn was proof that United can struggle to roll over poor opponents, in particular without their former Portuguese winger.
Chelsea have already produced a penalty shootout win over United in the Community Shield this season and the Blues have a good record at Stamford Bridge against Fergusonâ€™s side. Of the last five league matches at home, Chelsea have won three of them and the 5-0 win in 1999 lives long in the memory.
Returning to the present, the dilemma for Ferguson and his side is how to stop Didier Drogba and on paper it looks like the United defence is ill equipped to deal with the free-scoring bulldozing striker.
101gg predicts: Chelsea 3 â€“ Manchester United 1 (16/1)
Full match odds here.