Tag Archives: Shakhtar Donetsk

Champions League Round Of 16 Draw – Some Mouth-Watering Clashes

UCL Round Of 16

The draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 has been made and we have some mouth-watering clashes in store for us. Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Manchester United for the first time since his transfer to Real Madrid in 2009, while Barcelona face AC Milan and Arsenal take on Bayern Munich.

In other matches, Turkish champions Galatasary face Schalke, Celtic have tough opposition in Juventus, Dortmund take on the improving Shakhtar Donetsk, while Valencia face Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s PSG and Porto battle it out against unfancied Malaga.

Here is a run down on all the eight ties from the Champions League Round Of 16…

Galatasaray v Schalke

This is a tie which could easily go either way. Galatasaray will be the most happier of the two teams to have avoided the big names in the first knockout round. Schalke, on the other hand, will be happy to play the second leg at home in front of a sold out crowd in Germany, which has been one of the most difficult places to play football away from home this season.

Prediction: Schalke

Celtic v Juventus

Celtic had very few hopes of making it through to the last-16 but they did it, and now if they can do it again it would be a huge achievement but it looks highly unlikely. The Bhoys always knew that they were going to get a difficult draw. However, their home win against Barcelona will give them some confidence of securing a first leg advantage which they can take back to Italy.

Prediction: Juventus

Arsenal v Bayern Munich (Must Watch)

Arsenal never really seem to have any luck at this stage of the competition with draws against Barcelona and AC Milan in the two seasons before this one. The Gunners now face Bayern Munich – last season’s runners-up – and its no doubt this is going to a very tough game for the English side. But at the same time its a superb challenge for Arsene Wenger’s young side to defy all odds and shock the German giants.

Prediction: Bayern Munich

Shakhtar Donetsk v Borussia Dortmund (Must Watch)

Of all the ties this has to be one of the most entertaining tie consisting of two teams that have been very impressive this year. Dortmund are the heavy favourites to win this one having topped the Group of Death, but you can’t take Shakhtar for granted. They have also been very good in the group stages and have dumped Chelsea out of the competition.

Prediction: Borussia Dortmund

AC Milan v Barcelona (Must Watch)

A mouth-watering clash between two teams that have a long and rich history in the Champions League. AC Milan are not anymore the same force of the old, but have huge pedigree in this competition, while Barcelona are currently the best team in Europe. This could be one of the first matches that Tito Vilanova takes charge of following his treatment against cancer relapse.

Prediction: Barcelona

Real Madrid v Manchester United (Must Watch)

This is the dream match and also a first chance to see Cristiano Ronaldo return to his old club. The Portuguese star is still loved by the United faithful but he will be the obvious threat to their quarter-final chances. Both sides would have wanted to avoid each other before the semi-finals (atleast) but its a great tie for the neutrals. The two sides have some great history and rivalry between them and hopefully the tie could live up to the expectations.

Prediction: Manchester United

Valencia v Paris Saint-German

PSG will be delighted with this draw. The French club spent heavily in the summer to buy some talent players and in Carlo Ancelotti they have an experienced coach to guide them through this tie comfortably. The Spaniards, on the other hand, can’t be underestimated as they have been impressive in the group stages but they face a huge task ahead and will have to make the most of the first leg at home.

Prediction: Paris Saint-Germain

Porto v Malaga 

Another of the ties which could go either way. Porto are a tricky opposition and have tremendous talent in their ranks but they will have to cash in during the first leg at home because Malaga are one of the highest scoring teams at home in this competition. But at the same time, the Spaniards have been very inconsistent in the league and their inexperience in this competition may count against them.

Prediction: Porto

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Teams Manchester United and Arsenal Want To Avoid In The Champions League Round Of 16

Arsenal-United-ucl

Arsene Wenger recently said it didn’t matter if his side finish second in their group, but given the difference between the sides Arsenal and Manchester United might draw, he may have to think again.

As everyone knows, if you want to win tournaments, you are going to face the best teams at some stage of the tournament. With Arsenal finishing second in their group, they now are more than likely to face a tricky first round in the knockout stages. While, Manchester United finished top of their group and although there are a couple of teams they will want to avoid, they will likely get a favourable draw.

Manchester United

For United, Real Madrid are clearly the ones to avoid, with Jose Mourinho’s men second in their group by Borussia Dortmund. As the Portuguese himself said, the past two times his side have finished second in their group they have gone on to win the Champions League, and with the quality they have in their squad, they are still one of the favourites to win the tournament. The other side United will be keen to avoid is Shakhtar Donetsk, who have been very impressive this season and knocked Chelsea out.

The other four teams that Manchester United could draw pose less threat than the above two. Milan are improving but they don’t look like they will be able to compete in Europe this year. Porto are tricky, but United should be able to beat them, and the same goes for Valencia. Celtic could be interesting given it will be the ‘Battle of Britain’ and their performances against Barcelona were incredible, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s side would be expected to win comfortably.

Arsenal

While United are looking to avoid only two teams, the Gunners really have only one favourable draw and that’s Malaga. The Spanish side’s excellent start has fallen away a little bit in the league, and with their inexperience in the Champions League you would think Arsenal would be able to beat them. The rest of the sides look dangerous.

PSG like Malaga are inexperienced in Europe, but have Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a number of other talent players. They are probably the second best draw available. Then there is Juventus and Dortmund, winners over Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City and Shakhtar already, and they are not the real big guns of Europe. Barcelona and Bayern Munich are rightly considered amongst the favourites for the tournament, and if Wenger’s side pick either name, it will be very tough to see them making the last eight.

So, who do you want, and who you don’t want?

A Complete Guide To The Final 16 Teams Of The Champions League

UCL-Draw

Manchester United and Arsenal, the only two remaining English sides, will be looking to avoid the big guns in the draw for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, which takes place in Nyon (Switzerland) on Thursday 10:30am GMT.

Manchester United qualified as Group H winners and so are seeded in the draw but they still could be drawn against the big sides, while Arsenal finished as runners-up and like United could face the top guns especially Barcelona (third time in the past four seasons) in the knockout stages. On the other hand, Chelsea became the first holders to be eliminated in the group stages, while Manchester City were completely knocked out of Europe as they ended bottom of their group.

Group Winners: Paris Saint-Germain, Schalke, Malaga, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Group Runners-Up: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray

Below we have a look at each of the above 16 teams in detail..

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN

Country: France
Coach:
Carlo Ancelotti
Key Player: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Other Star Players: Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Javier Pastore
Rising Star: Marco Verratti
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 1995
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: PSG are one of the richest clubs in the world and have ambitions to win the Champions League this term. If striker Ibrahimovic can continue his superb form from the group stages, it might just happen.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

SCHALKE 04

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jens Keller
Key Player: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Other Star Players: Benedikt Howedes, Lewis Holtby & Kyriakos Papadopoulos
Rising Star: Julian Draxler
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Galatasary, Valencia, Celtic, Real Madrid
Chances: The Germans were unbeaten through their group which consisted the likes of Arsenal, Olympiakos and Montpellier, which shows they are not a team to be taken for granted. One their day they could upset the big guns.
Prediction: Round of 16

MALAGA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Manuel Pellengrini
Key Player: Isco
Other Star Players: Joaquin, Martin Demichelis & Eliseu
Rising Star: Francisco Portillo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Debutants
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Arsenal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: Have been very impressive so far in their debut season in the Champions League, but their inexperience in the competition may prove costly in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jurgen Klopp
Key Player: Marco Reus
Other Star Players: Roberto Lewandowski, Mats Hummels & Mario Gotze
Rising Star: Moritz Leitner
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1997
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Bundesliga champions have very much caught the eye in the group stages after finishing at top of the Group of Death and are the team to beat. Considered as the dark horses for the title.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

JUVENTUS

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Antonio Conte
Key Player: Arturo Vidal
Other Star Players: Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon & Giorgio Chiellini
Rising Star: Paul Pogba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1985, 1996
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Valencia, Celtic, Galatasaray
Chances: The reigning Serie A champions remained unbeaten in the group stages and topped their group by winning on the final matchday. The Italians are expected to step it up when the competition resumes in February.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

BAYERN MUNICH

Country: Germany
Coach:
 Jupp Heynckes
Key Player: Franck Ribery
Other Star Players: Arjen Robben, Bastian Schweinsteiger & Philipp Lahm
Rising Star: David Alaba
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1974, 1975, 1976, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Arsenal, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Celtic,Galatasaray
Chances: The current Bundesliga leaders ended as the beaten finalists last season and will be looking to make amends for it. They have been in fine form so far and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in May.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

BARCELONA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Tito Vilanova
Key Player: Lionel Messi
Other Star Players: Andres Iniesta, Xavi & Sergio Busquets
Rising Star: Christian Tello
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1992, 2006, 2009, 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk, Arsenal, Galatasaray, AC Milan
Chances: The Catalans were the pre-tournament favourites to win the competition and there has been very little so far to suggest that they won’t win it this term. Vilanova has done brilliantly since taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer.
Prediction: Winners

MANCHESTER UNITED

Country: England
Coach:
 Sir Alex Ferguson
Key Player: Wayne Rooney
Other Star Players: Robin van Persie, Nemanja Vidic & Antonio Valencia
Rising Star: Rafael
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1968, 1999, 2008
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Porto, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Valencia, Celtic
Chances: Unlike last season, United have marched pretty easily into the knockout stages and with Van Persie & Rooney both in form they are a team to fear. Surely one of the contenders for the title.
Prediction: Semi-Finals

PORTO

Country: Portugal
Coach:
 Vitor Pereira
Key Player: Jackson Martinez
Other Star Players: Joao Moutinho, Lucho Gonzalez & Nicolas Otamendi
Rising Star: James Rodriguez
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winner 1987, 2004
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: The Portuguese champions have gone all the way before but its very unlikely it will happen again this season. They have a very good squad with some very talented players but its highly unlikely they will trouble the big teams.
Prediction: Round of 16

ARSENAL

Country: England
Coach:
 Arsene Wenger
Key Player: Santi Cazrola
Other Star Players: Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen & Lukas Podolski
Rising Star: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2006
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Malaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: The Gunners have had a stuttering season both domestically and in Europe – especially at home. They will need to improve a lot in the second half of the season if they want to be genuine title contenders.
Prediction: Quarter-Finals

AC MILAN

Country: Italy
Coach:
 Massimiliano Allegri
Key Player: Stephan El Shaarawy
Other Star Players: Philippe Mexes, Ricardo Montolivo & Kevin-Prince Boateng
Rising Star: Mattia De Sciglio
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1963, 1969, 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003, 2007
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Arsenal, the Rossoneri are struggling this term domestically and in Europe. They are not the force of the old, although their pedigree and experience in this competition means they should not be taken lightly.
Prediction: Round of 16

REAL MADRID

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Jose Mourinho
Key Player: Cristiano Ronaldo
Other Star Players: Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos & Mesut Ozil
Rising Star: Raphael Varane
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1966, 1998, 2000, 2002
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Its been over a decade since Real Madrid last won the Champions League and the boss Mourinho has never appeared more determined to win the tournament for the club this season. With the team they have they are regarded as the joint favourites alongside Barca.
Prediction: Runners-Up

SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Country: Ukraine
Coach:
 Mircea Lucescu
Key Player: Luiz Adriano
Other Star Players: Darijo Srna, Willian & Fernandinho
Rising Star: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Quarter-final 2011
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Malaga, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Manchester United
Chances: Like Dortmund, Shakhtar are another side that have grabbed the attention of many in the group stages. They are the ones who dumped Chelsea out of the tournament and a side very few people would want to face in the knockout stages.
Prediction: Round of 16

VALENCIA

Country: Spain
Coach:
 Ernesto Valverde
Key Player: Roberto Soldado
Other Star Players: Jonas, Sofiane Feghouli & Adil Rami
Rising Star: Daniel Parejo
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Runner-up 2000, 2001
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester United
Chances: The Spaniards have been very impressive in the group stages with their star striker at the top of his game but do not appear equipped for a really extended run in competition this season.
Prediction: Round of 16

CELTIC

Country: Scotland
Coach:
 Neil Lennon
Key Player: Giorgos Samaras
Other Star Players: Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama & Gary Hooper
Rising Star: Anthony Watt
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Winners 1967
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Manchester United
Chances: Had little hopes of making it through to the knockout stages after being grouped with Barcelona, Benfica and Spartak Moscow but they did it. Anything else from now will be a bonus for the Scottish champions.
Prediction: Round of 16

GALATASARAY

Country: Turkey
Coach:
 Fatih Terim
Key Player: Burak Yilmaz
Other Star Players: Felipe Melo, Nordin Amrabat & Hamit Altintop
Rising Star: Semih Kaya
Previous best in CL/European Cup: Semi-finals 1989
Possible Round of 16 Opponents: PSG, Schalke, Málaga, Dortmund, Juventus, Bayern Munich, Barcelona
Chances: Snatched the second spot from CFR Cluj on the final matchday. Like Celtic, anything else they achieve from now on will be a bonus for the Turkish side and very few teams will fancy making the trip to the intimidating Turk Telekom Arena in Istanbul.
Prediction: Round of 16

Champions League Group Stage Ultimate XI

Group Stage Ultimate XI

The Champions League group stages are done and dusted with Chelsea becoming the first holders in the history to be knocked out in the group stages, Manchester City completely out of Europe, Real Madrid finishing second and Lionel Messi in fine form.

Here, IntoTheTopCorner picks its Group Stage Ultimate XI, containing the very best performers over the six matchdays in a 4-5-1 formation. There’s an alternative to each selection, so have a look at the team below…

GK – FRASER FORSTER (CELTIC)

Forster

Celtic are through to the knockout stages for the first time since the 2007/08 season and they had some individual performances to thank for. The former Newcastle United shot-stopper is one of them, as he had two brilliant games against Barcelona that actually secured their qualification. A last-gasp defeat at the Camp Nou and a historical win at Celtic Park did their confidence a world of good, and their final matchday win over Spartak Moscow was more than deserved.

Alternative – Joe Hart (Manchester City)

RB – PHILIPP LAHM (BAYERN MUNICH)

Lahm

Bayern’s skipper and Mr. Consistent, Philipp Lahm, has proved dependable yet again as the Bundesliga leaders secured the top spot in Group F ahead of Valencia. Though, the German international captain did his best work on the left flank he comes in our side as a right-back. He managed three assists and won one penalty in the five matches he played and looked very solid at the back.

Alternative – Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund)

CB – THIAGO SILVA (PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN)

Thiago Silva

The Brazilian is known as one of the best defenders in the world of football at the moment and he didn’t let anyone down. The former AC Milan centre-back was very consistent throughout the group stages as he helped the French side to first place in Group A in their long-awaited return to Europe’s elite. He scored two goals including the opener in PSG’s important win over Porto on Matchday six.

Alternative – Martin Demichelis (Malaga)

CB – MATS HUMMELS (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)

Hummels

Dortmund – surprisingly – topped the Group of Death and they had their solid defence to thank for it. Hummels, the integral part of the reigning Bundesliga champions’ back four, was at his very best as Die Schwarzgelben remained unbeaten in all of their six group games and also managed to keep three clean sheets in the process.  All the defence played their part, but the German international was perhaps the standout performer in Jurgen Klopp’s back four.

Alternative – Nicolas Otamendi (Porto)

LB – GIORGIO CHIELLINI (JUVENTUS)

Chiellini

Juventus secured their passage through to the knockout stages as Group E winners thanks to an unbeaten run of six games. Their last three were impressive wins and also clean sheets, while the Old Lady came out victorious in Donetsk – a feat achieved by very few teams in the past 12 months or so. The Italian international was perhaps the most impressive player in Antonio Conte’s back three.

Alternative – Christian Fuchs (Schalke)

CDM – ARTURO VIDAL (JUVENTUS)

Vidal

The Chilean international has to be one of the players of the group stages. The former Leverkusen man is a typical box-to-box midfielder combining defensive steel with goal-scoring prowess at the highest level. His partnership with Claudio Marschisio is the engine of Conte’s team. In the group stages, he averaged 4.8 tackles per game and scored three goals with one assist—an absolutely remarkable feat for a defensive midfield.

Alternative – Victor Wanyama (Celtic)

CM – WILLIAN (SHAKHTAR DONETSK)

Willian

The Brazilian alongside the Chilean gives our side some South American feel in the midfield. Willian, who has attracted a lot of interest from the Premier League clubs like Chelsea and Tottenham in the past, was one of the top performers for Shakhtar scoring four goals and creating two as they made it through to the last-16 and dumped the holders out of the competition in the process.

Alternative – Fernandinho (Shakhtar Donetsk)

CM – ISCO (MALAGA)

Isco

The 20-year-old Spaniard scored twice and assisted two in six games to announce himself on the European stage and walk straight into our line-up. While he has failed to to translate this form into his La Liga games, Isco has been in super form in the Champions League. It’s his form in the in Europe’s elite competition that has clubs scrambling to meet his €18.5 million buyout clause before Malaga extend his contract, and it’s clear this kid has something slightly special.

Alternative – Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)

RW – CRISTIANO RONALDO (REAL MADRID)

Ronaldo

Love him or hate him, but the Portuguese is surely one of the best players in the world and he proved it with his performances for the Spanish champions in the group stages. The former Manchester United star managed to scored six goals in the group of death and will be hoping to score many more in the later stages as he hopes to guide the Los Blancos to their first ever Champions League title in over a decade.

Alternative – Juan Mata (Chelsea)

LW – LIONEL MESSI (BARCELONA)

Messi

A Champions League team without the best player in the world? Not possible at all. The Barca striker is at his very peak and was again at his very best in the group stages scoring five goals and creating two as he helped the Catalans top their group. The Argentine has had the best year having scored 90 goals and will be hoping more of the same in 2013 as he looks to guide his team to yet another European success.

Alternative – Burak Yilmaz (Galatasaray)

ST – ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (PARIS SAINT-GERMIAN)

Ibrahimovic

Out strike force is a nightmare to any team and Ibrahimovic leads it. The Swede has played for the many elite club during his career but his contributions for the French capital side in this season’s campaign can’t be ignored. He has managed to score just two goals in the six games but it’s the five assists that are the most impressive. Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore and Jeremy Menez must really enjoy playing alongside the Swede as he continues to impress.

Alternative – Jackson Martinez (Porto)

Group Stage Ultimate XI

Robeto Di Matteo Sacked As Chelsea Boss – Not Surprising At All!!

Chelsea have sensationally sacked manager Roberto Di Matteo following their 3-0 defeat to the Italian champions Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Less than seven months after guiding the Blues to FA Cup and Champions League glory, Di Matteo has been shown the door at Stamford Bridge for the club’s poor performances in this season’s Champions League. Chelsea are currently third in Group E behind leaders Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus, and are on the verge of becoming the first defending champions to be eliminated in the group stages.

A statement on Chelsea’s official website read:

The team’s recent performances and results have not been good enough and the owner and the Board felt that a change was necessary now to keep the club moving in the right direction as we head into a vitally important part of the season.

The club faces a difficult task ahead in qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League as well as maintaining a strong challenge for the top of the Premier League while competing in three other cup competitions. Our aim is to remain as competitive as possible and challenge strongly on all fronts.

The owner and the Board would like to thank Roberto for all he has done for the club since taking over in March. Roberto helped guide us to an historic Champions League victory and a seventh FA Cup. We will never forget the huge contribution he has made to this club’s history and he will always be welcome at Stamford Bridge.

The club will be making an announcement shortly regarding a new first team manager.

What went wrong?

The sacking of Roberto Di Matteo just six months after he won the FA Cup and Champions League is a bit unlucky, but to be honest not surprising at all!! It was always going happen, but it has happened quicker than anyone expected. The Italian was never Roman Abramovich’s man for the permanent job in the first place, but he won the Champions League last season (by accident maybe) and that probably forced the Russian billionaire to give him the job at the start of the season.

Actually, the dressing room with the likes of John Terry, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Petr Cech won the trophy, not the manager. He has tried to change the style of football. A powerful team has been replaced by skillful young players and that has resulted in some eye-catching, mouth-watering sparkling football, but at the same time have also been overpowered by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester United.

The Blues started the season with the chance of winning seven trophies but are now on the freefall and that has made Abramovich furious. Although the owner was kind enough to overlook the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City, he was mad with the 4-1 defeat against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup even after spending more than £80million on new players.

Chelsea need a miracle to make it through Group E of the Champions League and in danger of becoming the first holders in the history of the competition to be eliminated in the group phase. The  failure to get out of the group stages of Europe’s most prestigious club competition is a pretty poor return for a club with a huge wage bill and a big transfer kitty and Di Matteo even admitted himself that ‘if you fail at Chelsea, you lose your job’. He has paid the price for it.

Twitter Reaction

Who Next?

According to various reports across the UK, former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and former Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez are being linked with the new managerial vacancy at Stamford Bridge, with the latter believed to be the front runner for the job.

Roman Abramovich is obssessed with bringing Pep Guardiola and his style of football to Chelsea, but the former Barcelona midfielder is currently on a year’s sabbatical in New York and would need a ‘phenomenal’ offer cut that short. On the other hand, Benitez, who was in Abu Dhabi this morning, is expected to be flying into England on Thursday and could be given the job until the end of the season.

Other likely candidates for the job are former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp, former Chelsea boss and current Anzhi head coach Guus Hiddink, Real Madrid boss Jose Mourinho and former England manager Fabio Capello, but Benitez remains the favourite.

Chelsea are expected to make the appointment of the new manager before Friday, ahead of the club’s key fixture against the reigning Premier League champions and current league leaders Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Premier League Team Of The Week – Gameweek 11

See who have made our Team of the Week from an exciting eleventh weekend in the Premier League. West Ham United are the only side to provide two players, while there is one each from Chelsea, Arsenal, Fulham, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Stoke City, Norwich City and Everton.

Jussi Jaaskelainen (West Ham United)

Kevin Nolan returned to St. James Park to haunt his old club, but the win was only possible thanks to a wonder save by the West Ham shot-stopper. Demba Ba thought he had levelled matters for Newcastle with a powerful header, but the keeper sprang across his goal to claw the ball away before it crossed the line.

Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

For some time, the Blues have struggled to find a solid right-back who can fulfill the role with consistency and the Chelsea new-boy looks like he might be the one who can cope with the demands of playing in the Chelsea defence without buckling under the pressure. He was impressive against Shakhtar Donetsk and even more adventurous against Liverpool.

Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City)

The former Manchester United defender has enjoyed an excellent start to the season and looks set to challenge for a spot in Roy Hodgson’s England side in the next few months, and that continued on Saturday as he put in a commanding display in the Potters’ 1-0 win over QPR. He kept Djibril Cisse quiet for the whole game and was also a threat inside the attacking third.

Sebastien Bassong (Norwich City)

It was one of those desperate games for Norwich where they had to put their bodies on the line to defend but in the end they earned a valuable point against Reading. The former Tottenham and Newcastle man had one of his best games of the season as he single-handedly kept Jason Roberts, Stephen Hunt, Jobi McAnuff and Pavel Pogrebnyak quiet.

Jose Enrique (Liverpool)

Chelsea’s lack of width in the midfield gave Enrique all kinds of space and the Spaniard needs no invitation to go forward. He controlled the left flank for the Reds against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. He was unable to keep a clean sheet, but impressed for Brendan Rodgers’ side and almost scored an injury time winner.

Andreas Weimann (Aston Villa)

Scoring two goals against Manchester United and ending on the losing side felt like ‘losing a cup final’ to Weimann. He can, however, take plenty of heart from the fact that he was able to breach a Manchester United defence on two occasions. His first was an unstoppable drive which fizzed past David de Gea and his second saw him display some predatory instincts inside the box.

Marouane Fellaini (Everton)

The Belgian midfielder is in the form of his life and there is no doubt he is attracting so much of interest from the top clubs. He has taken his game to a new level this season with talismanic displays put in on a weekly basis. Another inspirational showing on Saturday saw him score one and make the other for Nikica Jelavic as the Toffees overcame Sunderland 2-1.

Kevin Nolan (West Ham United)

Nolan gets the nod over Tottenham’s Sandro and Manchester City’s David Silva, as he collected three points and scored the winner for West Ham against his former employers at St. James Park. The former Bolton man put in yet another professional display for his side and not only scored the only goal of the game but also provided Andy Carroll with a chance to seal the game.

Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

It has taken a while for Giroud to get going in the Premier League, but he is now displaying the kind of form which saw him score for fun in France and earn international recognition. The powerful frontman netted a brace against Fulham over the weekend, with the only surprise being that a man brimming with confidence did not step up to take a late penalty.

Javier Hernandez (Manchester United)

Manchester United’s brilliant comeback win over Aston Villa has been mentioned a lot in this past week but it would have been impossible without this man. Voted as United’s player of the month, Hernandez started from the bench but was introduced at the interval to devastating effect. He completely turned the game on its head with his brilliant hat-trick and went home with the match-ball.

Dimitar Berbatov (Fulham)

While Giroud was good for Arsenal on Saturday, Berbatov was even better. He too helped himself to a brace, but also provided an assist as Fulham held Arsenal to a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Emirates. The Bulgarian’s class was seen, as he controlled the game at his own pace, and the composure he displayed in slotting home a penalty perfectly illustrated what he is all about.

Chelsea v Manchester United Preview

First meets second in the Premier League on Super Sunday as Chelsea host Manchester United in arguably the biggest game of the season so far and one that could have long term consequences on the title race. 

Chelsea currently have a four-point lead in the table and so will remain at the top no matter what happens in London on Sunday. But Sir Alex Ferguson will want his side to deliver some psychological damage on Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea, who lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in their midweek defence of the Champions League.

United, who came from two goals down to pick up a 3-2 win over Braga in Europe thanks to the heroics of Javier Hernandez, also visit Stamford Bridge with some reason to be confident. Last season’s Premier League runners-up have won four and drawn one of the last five matches against Chelsea in all competitions. But the Red Devils 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.

TEAM NEWS

Chelsea

The Blues will be without the services of their experience duo – John Terry and Frank Lampard. The Chelsea skipper continues to serve his four-match ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand, who is the brother of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand. While, Lampard sustained a calf injury against Shakhtar Donetsk in the midweek and has been ruled for ‘ a few weeks’. Marko Marin has been training for the past couple of weeks and is expected to be in the squad for Sunday. There are no other absentees meaning Di Matteo is expected to name the same XI that won 4-2 at Tottenham last weekend.

Manchester United

Manchester United will be without their Japanese playermaker Shinji Kagawa for three to four weeks due to the knee injury he picked up in his side’s comeback win over Braga. Chris Smalling and Ashley Young are back training for a week and therefore could make the bench at Stamford Bridge, while United hope Phil Jones will start full training in November. Sir Alex Ferguson has no other fitness concerns, except for the long-term absentee Nemanja Vidic (knee), in his squad and will have to decide what to do with his striker problems after Javier Hernandez’s man-of-the-match performance in the midweek.

HEAD TO HEAD

Played – 163
Chelsea Wins – 44
Draw – 48
Manchester United Wins – 71

HEAD TO HEAD FIXTURES (LAST FIVE)

05-Feb-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 3-3 Manchester United
18-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 3-1 Chelsea
08-May-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
12-Apr-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 2-1 Chelsea
06-Apr-12 – Champions League – Chelsea 0-1 Manchester United

FORM GUIDE

Chelsea – LWWWW
The Blues are in superb form this season and are early the favourites to win the title, as they are four points clear at the top of the table winning seven of their eight Premier League matches this season.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Shakhtar Donetsk 2-1 Chelsea
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Tottenham Hotspur 2-4 Chelsea
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Chelsea 4-1 Norwich City
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – FC Norsdjaelland 0-4 Chelsea
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Arsenal 1-2 Chelsea

Manchester United – WWWWL
United come into this match on the back of four back-to-back wins in all competitions and are sitting second behind their hosts for Sunday in the Premier League table.

23-Oct-12 – Champions League – Manchester United 3-2 Braga
20-Oct-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 4-2 Stoke City
06-Oct-12 – Premier League – Newcastle United 0-3 Manchester United
02-Oct-12 – Champions League – CFR Cluj 1-2 Manchester United
29-Sep-12 – Premier League – Manchester United 2-3 Tottenham Hotspur

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Juan Mata (Chelsea)
The little Spaniard has been in great form this season and is surely one of the early contenders for the Player of the Year award. It was thought that the big money captures of Oscar and Eden Hazard might stop him from playing in his number 10 role for the club, but it has not. Instead he has got even better and has already scored three and created five goals in eight league matches so far. The United defence will have to be at their very best and disallow him the space he loves to get into, if they are to get a result on Sunday.

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
The England international is at his very best since his return from the thigh injury he picked up against Fulham at the start of the season. Many people suggested that the arrival of Robin van Persie will see Rooney being frozen out at United, but it has not been so. The duo have flourished as a strike partnership and the Englishman, who has scored three times in his last two visits to Stamford Bridge, has scored twice and assisted four times in the last three league games. There is no doubt the versatile striker will be United’s main man on Sunday and if the Blues can keep him quiet for the whole game then they have a great chance of getting all three points from the game.

PROBABLE LINEUPS

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Petr Cech (C); Branislav Ivanovic, Gary Cahill, David Luiz, Ashley Cole; Ramires, John Obi Mikel; Oscar, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata; Fernando Torres.

John Terry misses the match because of his four-match suspension meaning Gary Cahill, who was benched for the midweek Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk comes back in the side to partner David Luiz in the heart of the defence. Frank Lampard, who picked up a knock in midweek, is expected to make way for Eden Hazard. Ramires will partner Mikel in the midfield, while Hazard will regain his spot in the side alongside Oscar and Juan Mata. Underperforming Fernando Torres is likely to start as the lone striker up front ahead of Daniel Sturridge.

Manchester United (4-1-2-1-2): David De Gea; Rafael, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Patrice Evra; Michael Carrick; Antonio Valencia, Paul Scholes; Wayne Rooney; Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez.

With Anders Lindegaard still recovering from the thump injury he picked up in training, David De Gea will start in between the sticks for the Red Devils. Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra are expected to return to the side after being rested in the midweek. Michael Carrick, who looked very unconventional in defence against Braga, will be moved up the field to play in his natural position on Sunday alongside Antonio Valencia and Paul Scholes in midfield and Wayne Rooney at the top of the diamond. Javier Hernandez, who scored the late equaliser in 3-3 draw at Stamford Bridge last season, could be picked ahead of Danny Welbeck to partner Robin van Persie in attack.

OPTA FACTS

  • 0 – Chelsea have a superb home record against United, as they have never lost to the Red Devils in their last 10 meetings at Stamford Bridge.
  • 1 – Chelsea have gone into the break behind only once in the eight league matches this season.
  • 2 – David Luiz has scored in both of his appearances for Chelsea against United at Stamford Bridge.
  • 4 – Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have only been in front at half-time four times in 12 matches this season, and have gone on to win all four.
  • 4 – Javier Hernandez has scored in four of the seven clashes with Chelsea.
  • 5 – Wayne Rooney has scored five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions against Chelsea.
  • 5 – Robin van Persie has scored five times at Stamford Bridge; the best record of any visiting player.
  • 6 – Fernando Torres has scored six goals in 14 appearances for Chelsea this season, and is just one shy of total from last season.
  • 18 – In their last 30 meeting in all competitions, both the sides have got on the scoresheet on 18 occasions.

REFEREE

Name – Mark Clattenburg
Based – Durham
Age – 37
Games – 6
Yellow Cards – 24
Red Cards – 2

MATCH ODDS

Chelsea 7/5, Draw 9/4, Manchester United 21/10

PREDICTION

Chelsea are four points clear at the top of the table and a win on Sunday will see them going seven points ahead of United. The Red Devils, on the other hand, will put their best foot forward to pull Chelsea back. Goals are written all over this game, in the corresponding fixture last season Chelsea squandered a three-goal lead and were pegged back to 3-3. But both the sides have changed considerably since their last league meeting. Robin van Persie, who is the league’s top goal scorer with six goals, is expected to lead United’s onslaught alongside Wayne Rooney. However, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are in top form and given the weaknesses in both the defences, we are in store for a treat.

Predicted Score: Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United