Chelsea and Manchester United seek redemption in FA Cup
The chance of redemption will be to the fore in the last two matches in the last 16 of the FA Cup. On Sunday, Chelsea take on Manchester City while on Monday, a beleaguered Manchester United side travel to third division Shrewsbury Town.
On the face of it, Sunday’s clash at Stamford Bridge should be the more evenly matched of the ties. Manchester City are fourth in the Premier League while the English champions Chelsea are clawing their way back up the table under Guus Hiddink who replaced Jose Mourinho in December. The 52-year-old Portuguese was sacked following a disastrous start to the season which left them teetering near the relegation zone.
Mourinho’s departuire came after he had guided the side out of the Champions League group stages and into the knockout rounds. What they received for finishing top of a pool that included Porto and Dynamo Kiev was the poisoned chalice of Paris Saint-GErmain, who finished behind Real Madrid in their group.
On Tuesday night, Chelsea lost 2-1 at PSG in the first leg of their last 16 game;
After the match, Hiddink admitted he cast a covetous glance at the quality on the PSG substitutes benches. It was one of those replacements Edinson Cavaniu who scored the winner 12 minutes from time. It was supposed to be that way at Chelsea. The manager able to call on 50 million euros worth of attacking talent for a decisive cameo.
But the club hierarchy appears to be locked in a quandary of wanting graduates from the youth academy in the first team and marquee names.
Hiddink who is likely to play the latest big academy hope Ruebn Loftus-Cheek against City says the Champions League tie is 50/50. But deep down the Dutch veteran will know that the Champions League force is very much with PSG especially with their 24 point lead in the French championship and the opportunity to juggle their lavish resources.
The FA Cup – which he won in 2009 with Chelsea when he was interim manager after the departure of …- remains a viable target. Progress past City who may well field a team of youngsters as they prepare for their Champions League first lef against Dynamo Kiev, would provide a huge confidence boost.
Quite where Manchester United’s players will find belief is the question many of their fans will be wondering as they prepare for the trip to Shrewsbury Town. United are fifth in the Premier League, giants of world football and Shrewsbury are 59 places below them in the football order. Under Louis van Gaal, more than 300 million euros has been spent.
But, though they are still in with a chance of finishing in the top four places, the season has been deemed a failure. They went out of the Champions League in the group stages, have been infuriatingly inconsistent in the Premier League and have excelled in incompetence in the Europa League. The 2-1 defeat at the Danish minnows FC Midtjylland led the city’s respected newspaper the Manchester Evening News to demand van Gaal’s immediate sacking.
Shrewsbury Town’s manager Micky Mellon has told reporters that his side has a chance to win and his players have to make the chance bigger.
If they do pull off the win and reach the quarter-finals, it’s unlikely that van Gaal will see out the season.
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