When Chelsea host Manchester United on Wednesday, in the first leg of the quarter finals of the Champions League, memories will invariably go back to that night at Moscow in 2008.
A weeping John Terry, drenched in Moscow rain, is the first image to strike the mind on looking back to the 2008 final. Why he wept is an infamous story. Scores were tied after extra-time and the game went into penalties. Chelsea were on the verge claiming their first Champions League trophy and with captain John Terry stepping up to take the decisive kick, it all seemed perfect for Chelsea fans. However, Terry slipped at the crucial moment and his strike went out off post. Anelka went on to miss the decisive penalty and Chelsea's champions league pursuit continued. They were shattered and Terry's weeping was on the front pages of all the daily's the next morning.
Three years on, the two sides meet again in the same competition, albeit not in the final. Chelsea, however much their players insist the contrary, will be out for revenge. Not much has changed for the London side who still have a majority of the players who experienced the miseries of 2008 final in their roster.
Chelsea come to this game on the back of a disappointing 1-1 draw at Stoke City, which almost certainly banishes any lingering hope of retaining the Premiership title. Chelsea did have positives to derive, chiefly Drogba's spirited display which saw him score the equalizer. After the arrival of Fernando Torres in the January transfer window, Chelsea's forwards haven't been providing what they are paid for - goals. Torres has gone 527 minutes without a goal which is astonishing considering his quality and has faced intense criticism from the media. Ancelotti's rotation policy makes it difficult to predict which one of Drogba, Anelka and Torres he will pick against United and the decision could ultimately prove the difference on the night. Ancelotti himself has come under some intense criticism as Chelsea face a trophy-less season which is synonymous with disaster at West London. However, the Italian received backing from an unlikely source - Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
I cannot understand how you can criticize Ancelotti, who won the Double in his first season at Chelsea, Ferguson told Gazzetta dello Sport. It's the fault of the current media atmosphere. They invent problems where there are none. I am certain Carlo reacts like me. He ignores the media so that your decisions, your philosophy and your mental health are not affected by it. How can Chelsea think of changing a coach like him?
Ferguson went on to back Torres as well, saying Of course he will start scoring. I just hope he waits a little bit, at least until after the tie against us. When Chelsea signed him, everyone said what a great signing he was, and rightly so. Now everyone says that it was a mistake. Can people be more ridiculous? Of course he needs time to adapt.
As Ferguson rightly pointed out, Torres is quality and he will score sooner rather than later. Big players produce on big occasions and it could be that the Spaniard might bag his first Chelsea goal against United.
Ferguson's side have failed to inspire this season, stumbling and stuttering over opponents, but has impressively managed to fight on three fronts - a mark of a great side. They come to this game on the back of a brilliant comeback win at West Ham during the weekend, when down by two goals at half-time, the Red Devils fought back to secure a 4-2 win thanks to a Wayne Rooney hat-trick. The win proved crucial as their nearest contenders Arsenal and Chelsea both drew.
Despite the win, however, United and hat-trick hero Wayne Rooney are on the forefront of media scrutiny after the English forward celebrated his third goal by yelling expletives into the camera. The FA weren't impressed and have charged him with a two-game ban. What Chelsea should be worried about is the possible on-field retaliation by Rooney, a point noted by Chelsea veteran Frank Lampard.
He said, Wayne is always a very competitive player and there is never a good time to be playing against him. But there's a chance that the ban might spur him on even more. When you get negative headlines like he's had it can make you more of a threat.
From 2004, Chelsea have ousted Arsenal as United's prime competitor for trophies and the last six premiership titles have been shared by the two sides. It is the battle between Britain's best and with the history the two sides have, it could be quite a spectacle. The latest encounter between the two sides saw Chelsea win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge in the league early in March. However, one of the Chelsea's scorers on that day, David Luiz, is cup-tied and will be unavailable. It will mean Ancelotti will have to shift his defense around with Ivanovic possibly partnering Terry at the heart of the defence with Bosingwa on the flank. United is expected to line-up in a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney up front in the lone strikers role, with both Hernandez and Berbatov benched.
Though neither side will take many risks, as it is just the first leg, it could still prove to be a major European night considering the strength of both sides in action.
Team News -
Manchester United could be boosted with the return of Rio Ferdinand, Anderson and importantly, keeper Edwin Van der Sar who missed the weekend trip to West Ham. However, United will be without Owen Hargreaves, John O'Shea, Rafael, Darren Fletcher, Anders Lindegaard and Wes Brown.
Apart from the cup-tied David Luiz and the doubtful pair of Alex and Yossi Benayoun, Chelsea have no major injury concerns.
Match Fact -
Manchester United have not beaten Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in nine years but hold the better overall record at the Bridge with 31 wins to Chelsea's 23. 19 matches have been drawn.
Neither team will take many risks but Chelsea, with an especially motivated John Terry, should claim a narrow win, possibly 2-1, leaving the second leg a tie to look out for.