It’s been a busy weekend for Chelsea and Manchester United thanks to their punishment for not settling their FA Cup quarter-final at the first time of asking. Around 48 hours after being in league action, both teams meet at the Bridge with a place in the semi-finals of the Cup up for grabs.
United are coasting to league title number 20 and are looking to add an FA Cup to that inevitability, while Rafa Benitez is reportedly desperate to win it because it looks better on his CV than ‘finished 4th in the Premier League with Chelsea’. The Blues fans don’t like that.
I’ll be here to keep you up to date with all the latest news, snarky comments and #RAFAOUT campaigns for the early afternoon kick-off. If you’re away from a TV, out and about or you just hate ITV’s sport coverage, I’ll keep you up to speed with all the latest happenings.
Chelsea 1 – 0 Manchester United – BET NOW
2.29pm: Petr Cech hands Demba Ba the oversize bottle of Budweiser that looks more like a booby prize than something you’d actually want for recognition of his Man of the Match performance.
2.21pm: FULL TIME! Phil Dowd brings the game to an end and it’s a Chelsea win. It was a far better second half, but still a bit of a let down. Chelsea just about did enough to shade it, helped by a lot of United players not really turning up.
2.19pm: Another chance for Van Persie, but it’s another miss. He gets his head on to a Young cross, but it goes harmlessly over.
SUB! Demba Ba goes off and Fernando Torres comes. Substitution show-boating from Rafa.
2.17pm: SUB AND FOUR ADDED MINUTES OF FERGIE TIME! Oscar comes off for Chelsea and Victor Moses comes on. Fergie gets four minutes to stay in the cup, which is probably about half the time he was expecting.
2.15pm: CHANCE AND YELLOW CARD! Mata gets a half chance which De Gea saves. Seconds later he gets booked for talking Valencia out of it. Oscar goes into the book, his is for a challenge on Young.
2.13pm: GREAT CHANCE! Van Persie wastes a good chance from about eight yards out. He’s picked out superbly, but he can’t keep his first time half volley down and it sails over.
2.11pm: Oscar has a shot. The Chelsea fans nearly wet themselves with excitement, but the replays show it was well wide.
2.09pm: More weather chat mixed with sarcasm from Tyldesley. Such a shame just as we were starting to enjoy the game.
2.07pm: Mata goes down and the Chelsea fans shout for a free-kick. I have to agree – that was a shocking challenge. From the ball.
2.06pm: SUB! United make their final change as Danny Welbeck goes off after doing not much and Ashley Young comes on.
2.05pm: Mata has a shot from the edge of the box. It goes narrowly over.
2.03pm: BOOKING! Azpilicueta gets a yellow for bad tackle.
2pm: Ramires fires a shot wide. Chelsea are looking more likely to extend their lead than United are to equalise. But that hasn’t stopped United pulling it out of the fire before:
Match odds: Chelsea 1/4 | Draw 7/2 | United 19/1
1.58pm: Nani knows he hasn’t had a good game. He looks distraught on the United bench:
1.54pm: GLORIOUS CHANCE! Eden Hazard latches on to a crap pass from Michael Carrick. He surges into the box and just when it looks like he’s done all the hard work, he scuffs his shot wide from about 12 yards out with just the keeper to beat. That was a great chance for Chelsea to move one step closer to the FA Cup and pretend this season hasn’t been a total disaster.
1.51pm: SUB! Nani gets a well deserved hook and Ryan Giggs comes on.
Elsewhere, the replays prove Juan Mata was right – about De Gea making that save, not his patchy teenage-style beard.
1.50pm: Mata fires into the side-netting from close range. He wants a corner, but he doesn’t get it.
1.49pm: SUB! It’s the beginning of the cavalry as Robin Van Persie comes on and Tom Cleverley makes way.
1.47pm: AMAZING SAVE! Petr Cech comes up with an absolute cracker of a save to deny Chicharito. I would say it was a header, but it clearly came off the Mexican’s shoulder. He throws a hand at it and the ball goes narrowly over.
1.46pm: YELLOW CARD! Bertrand gets a caution for cynically chopping down Chicharito in midfield.
1.45pm: Chelsea have gained in confidence since the goal and are controlling things. De Gea is forced into a girly punch that just about does the business.
1.41pm: YELLOW CARD! Tom Cleverley goes into the book for a pretty poor lunge on Ramires. Maybe even a case for a red? We’ve seen them given.
1.38pm: Match odds: Chelsea 4/11 | Draw 3/1 | United 9/1
Chelsea are the hot favourites to see it out from here, which may be a bit of a mistake considering some of their recent performances. United are a tempting 9/1, but that excludes extra time if we get it.
1.36pm: GOAL! 1-0 CHELSEA! Finally we get some quality and it’s a goal completely out of keeping with what we’ve seen so far. Mata chips a ball into the United box and Ba gets on to the end of it to hook it beyond De Gea on the volley. Great goal and maybe that will spark some more excitement.
1.34pm: CHANCE! You wouldn’t really call it a half chance or even a quarter of a chance, but Ba somehow flicks a leg out at a cross and sends it goalwards. De Gea saves comfortably.
1.31pm: United start the second half. No further changes for either team. Let’s home the quality of football changes rather substantially.
1.25pm: The ITV gang are still debating if that Chicharito shot that Cech made a meal of keeping out moved in the air. Roy says it didn’t, but Lee Dixon disagrees:
it’s hard to see in slow motion
says Lee, somewhat missing the entire point of slow motion.
1.23pm: Peter Schmeichel gives us a glimpse of what’s likely to be going on in the United dressing room right now:
Interesting to see if SAF makes any changes at halftime. Don't think so, but Nani's hair won't be wet….for sure..!
— Peter Schmeichel (@Pschmeichel1) April 1, 2013
1.21pm: The toughest job in football isn’t managing United or Cheslea – it’s having to edit a highlights reel for that first half.
1.18pm: Nani has been asked for a urine sample at half time. He can’t produce however as he’s even struggling to pass water at the moment.
1.16pm: Jon Obi Mikel finds himself on the edge of the United box and rather than fainting with surprise, he gets a shot away. It’s blocked and De Gea claims the resulting corner. The ref decides that’s enough of this tripe and blows for HALF TIME.
1.14pm: There’s a half arsed penalty shout for United and then some half-arsed goal mouth scrambling. It comes to nothing,, but United are certainly starting to threaten more.
There’s thankfully only one added minute.
1.10pm: CHANCE/DODGY GOALKEEPING Chicharito has shot from distance and it moves in the hair. Cech throws his legs at it and keeps it out – just about. The commentators go a bit ‘Carry On’ and say it ‘went both ways’ and it’s a ‘double swinger’ making it sound more like David Walliams than a football. The replays confirm it didn’t move that much.
1.07pm: Much better from Nani. Not only does he avoid giving the ball straight back to Chelsea, but he fizzes in a decent shot that Petr Cech has covered.
At the other end, Hazard combines with Oscar and blasts a shot over the bar from the edge of the box. It’s not quite a good game yet, but it;s certainly less crap than it has been.
1.06pm: Following a Chelsea corner, Ramires has a shot from distance. It’s not very good, but it still counts as about the 3rd most exciting thing to have happened in this game.
1.04pm: Chelsea win a free-kick on the edge of the edge of the box. By that I mean it’s not really shooting distance, but that doesn’t stop David Luiz. Sideshow Bob’s doppelganger tries to do that weird ‘make the ball wobble’ thingy, but blasts it high over De Gea’s bar.
1.02pm: Oh more excitement. Ba gets into a good position, but Smalling gets in the way to block his goal bound shot. With this moderately exciting football, you are really spoiling us.
1pm: Half and hour gone and we get our first meaningful attack of the game. Hazard tees up Demba Ba from about 16 yards out but his low shot is stopped by De Gea’s foot and it goes out for a throw.
12.57pm: Chicharito does well to make some space for himself just inside the Chelsea box. Just as he’s about to shoot, he realises he has no left foot and slips instead.
12.55pm: United work their way into the Chelsea box and so little has happened, it qualifies as entertainment. Cleverley’s speculative cross is cut out without ever looking likely to find a United player.
12.54pm: 25 minutes gone and Tylsley admits that it’s a ‘strange game’. And by ‘strange’ I take it he means ‘shit’.
12.51pm: SUB! Ashley Cole pulls up suddenly. He looks lamer than an episode of Miranda. Ryan Bertrand comes on.
12.48pm: Nani has been BAD so far. Real BAD:
12.45pm: 15 minutes in and we get the most interesting event of the match so far. Chris Smalling takes a Hazard shot in the plums. After a bit of a rub and grimace, he’s up straight away. What a trooper.
12.40pm: It’s still very slow at the Bridge. So slow that Rafa Benitez decides there’s no need to take pointless notes in that mini notebook of his and he slips it in his pocket. #RAFAOUT
12.37pm: Nani has found himself confined to defensive duties early on, but he’s doing well. He’s winning a lot of ball. For Chelsea.
12.36pm: It’s been a slow start to the game. So much so that Clive Tylesly is talking about the weather. It’s cold don’t ya know?
12.32pm: Despite naming what looked like an attacking team, Chicharito has started as the lone striker for United with Valencia slotting in at right back.
12.30pm: After an awkward handshake between Rafa and Fergie, Chelsea kick off. The teams wear blue and red respectively in the way you’d expect.
12.26pm: Adrian Chiles tries to deflate the Sky Sports bubble by pointing out ‘This could be the last meaningful game of the season for Manchester United.’ No need to watch Sky for the rest of the year so. I’ll just keep my TV tuned to ITV were I can watch such delights as re-runs of Bergerac and celebrities eating kangaroo balls for money.
12.22pm: Fergie is getting extra Scottish as he gets older. He’s asked to explain the logic behind his team selection and he says a lot of stuff that’s essentially inaudible. A lot like this:
Freshness … mumble mumble … Energy … mumble mumble … Hamstring
12.21pm: Matt on Twitter asks:
@paddypower anychance of me puttin a tenner on Keane punching Chiles in the 37th minute?
— Rev Matt Kay © (@matt1878kay) April 1, 2013
Yes, but it would a shorter price than the 21/10 currently available for a United win.
12.13pm: Rafa says his omission of Terry, Lampard and Torres is purely down to the proximity of this game to Saturday’s match. He explains the choice by saying some of the following:
It’s not often in the club’s history that they have two games in less than 48 hours. That’s why I left them out. Expect Torres – he’s just a bit shit.
12.05pm: Lee Dixon, Gareth Southgate and Roy Keane join Adrian Chiles in the ITV studio. It takes Keane about 0.3 seconds to give Chiles a vicious death-stare:
12.02pm: Normally Fergie uses vague references to groin injuries BEFORE international breaks. This time he’s conveniently using AFTER Rooney comes back from England duty. The BBC’s Phil McNulty tells us:
Rooney exclusion is because of a groin injury picked up on England duty. #bbcfootball
— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) April 1, 2013
I think the truth is Wayne overdid it on the Easter eggs.
11.51am: TEAM NEWS
The teams are in and it’s pretty juicy. Not really for Chelsea who name a fairly straightforward team in view of the team RAfa picked for Saturday. John Terry and Frank Lampard are on the bench while Ba and Mata return to the starting line-up.
Cech, Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Oscar, Mata, Hazard, Ba
There are a few surprises in the United line-up. It had been assumed that Wayne Rooney would swan back into the team after missing out on Saturday, but that’s not the case and he’s gone with the combination of Chicharito and Welbeck. Rooney isn’t even on the bench, which is such a public slap in the face, it must make you wonder about his future at the club.
De Gea, Jones, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Nani, Hernandez, Welbeck