Bringing down the bridge


Beggars can't be choosers.

When you're seventh and 11 points behind league leaders Arsenal, you do what you can to narrow the gap.

Ashley Young and Adnan Januzaj are early favourites for the 2014 Fallon d'Flor award, but set-pieces appear to be Chelsea's Achilles' heel.

The Blues have yet to concede a goal this year, but since the turn of the year, they are the EPL team who let in the most number of goals through set-plays.

They leaked six of 19 in the goals conceded column via penalties, free-kicks or corners - including three against Sunderland.

The last goal Chelsea conceded was against Liverpool, when Luis Suarez got in front of Branislav Ivanovic to meet Philippe Coutinho's freekick.

The ball then broke for Martin Skrtel to tap in.

David Moyes would do well to work on Chelsea's weakness at the training ground too, with United deriving nine of their 35 league goals from set-pieces - over a quarter of their tally.


While Mourinho is cocksure about his best attackers, he has been distinctly undecided about who to play behind them.

The Portuguese has already tried a handful of combinations - Lampard- Ramires, Mikel-Lampard, Ramires-Essien, Mikel-Essien - and even thrown in centre back David Luiz into the mix.

There have been hits and misses, but the crucial thing is there isn't any form of consistency.

In the modern game, it is vital a defensive midfielder screen the back line and help reduce the threat on goal by making interceptions, breaking up play or denying a playmaker space.

Chelsea's high-pressing game may take the heat off the defensive midfielders, but in any one-off game, there remains that niggling suspicion they could get found out.

And United, who admittedly are also struggling to find their central midfield identity among Phil Jones, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick, must be ready to pounce and punish.


While Chelsea possess the Premier League's joint-best defence alongside Arsenal and Everton, and have conceded just one goal in their last six games, they are far from bullet- proof.

Already this season, two calamitous back-passes courtesy of David Luiz against Cardiff City and Michael Essien against Southampton resulted in goals.

And in nippy players such as Javier Hernandez, Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj, Manchester United do have the pace to exploit any lapse in concentration from the Blues.

Maybe his reflexes has been dulled by age, but Petr Cech doesn't seem to be the incredible shot-stopper he once was.

Even without injured star strikers Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney, David Moyes has to ram it into the Red Devils' heads - especially his midfielders - to shoot on sight.


While United's midfield continue to misfire, and Chelsea's strikers struggle - Demba Ba, Samuel Eto'o and Fernando Torres combining for just eight league goals - the Blues trio of Eden Hazard (nine goals, five assists), Oscar (six goals, two assists) and Willian (two goals, one assist) appear to be in a league of their own.

With their work-rate, clever dovetailing and clinical finishing, it is clear Jose Mourinho favours this combination that can fit into his preferred 4-3-3 formation or even a 4-2-3-1.

Together this toxic trio form the Blues' Bermuda Triangle, a place where opponents' chances of winning disappear.

Yet, there was a time when United thrived on playing against marquee midfields. By hook or crook, they would rough them up, stifle or choke them into submission and pop up with a sucker- punch winner.

Just ask Arsene Wenger or even Barcelona (2008).

They did prevent Chelsea from scoring at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture last August that finished goalless, and Arsenal, Everton and Newcastle have also shut out the Blues. So there is hope.


Short of an incredible injury crisis to take out Welbeck, Rooney and van Persie, what must the Mexican do to get a start?

Despite often proving to be a big-match player and a game-changer, the 25-yearold has had to play fourth fiddle.

It must be so confusing for Hernandez (left), who last season scored 18 goals in just 22 starts.

Rooney scored 16 in 31. Welbeck netted two in 23.

Chicharito has every right to feel aggrieved. Last season, he has a better minutes per goal ratio (106.9), shot conversion rate (26 per cent) and shooting accuracy (66 per cent) than Welbeck (847, 6.5 per cent, 45.2 per cent), Rooney (190.8, 16.9 per cent, 51.9 per cent) and even van Persie (123.8, 21.2 per cent, 56.2 per cent).

Last season, he also scored three times against Chelsea, including coming off the bench to net the winner at Stamford Bridge, to make it seven against the London side in 12 appearances.

So, Moyes must be brave and unleash hungry Hernandez in his bid for three points.

Get The New Paper for more stories.