Alex Ferguson …United boss
First meets second in the Premier League Sunday as Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge. The two rivals meet in arguably the biggest game of the season so far and one that could have long-term ramifications in the title race.
Chelsea currently have a four-point lead in the table and so will remain at the summit no matter what happens in London. But Sir Alex Ferguson will want United to inflict psychological damage on Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek defence of the UEFA Champions League.
United, who came from two goals down to pick up a 3-2 win over Braga in Europe, also visit Stamford Bridge with some reason to be confident. Last season’s Premier League runners-up have won four and lost none of the last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions.
But United have also won just one of the last 12 trips to Stamford Bridge in all competitions, while Chelsea have won 10 and lost just one of their last 13 Premier League home games.
Chelsea will again be without captain John Terry as the defender serves another game of his four-match ban. The centre-back is suspended for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, who is the brother of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand.
Frank Lampard underwent a scan on the calf injury he sustained against Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek and it remains to be seen if the midfielder is fit
Meanwhile, Ferguson is determined not to allow Chelsea to open up a gap on his Manchester United team Sunday.
United take on the Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge and after already losing to Tottenham and
Everton this season Ferguson is keen to keep up the pressure on one of the three teams he thinks can win the title.
“We don’t want a gap to open,” said Ferguson. “This could be a league where you will suffer if you lose bad ones. We couldn’t afford to lose the Tottenham one the way we did. If we get any more of that we will be in trouble. There are lot of big games still to come of course and I think it will be close.
“But Chelsea, City and ourselves are creating that little gap from the rest and whilst I cannot be dead certain, I would be surprised if one of us didn’t win it. Chelsea are undefeated, which gives you an idea of the level of consistency they have produced.”
With Chelsea and City both losing their UEFA Champions League matches in midweek it has been suggested that being able to focus on the Premier League could be a significant advantage in the spring. But Ferguson believes fighting on all fronts is always the best way to be successful.
“It is never a good thing to lose a game of football,” he added. “If you are knocked out of the Champions League it would not be a good thing. If you were knocked out of Europe completely it would be even worse.
“We are better when we are playing in all the competitions. I much prefer that.”