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Friday, April 25, 2008

Chelsea Highlights


Chelsea Vs. Manchester United Match Preview

Nemanja Vidic is expected to return to face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as Manchester United look to wrap up a 10th Premier League title.

Only a mathematical improbability will prevent United securing the title should they beat Avram Grant's men and the return of Vidic will be a major boost.

The Serb was rushed to hospital with a stomach complaint on Tuesday and missed the Champions League semi-final with Barcelona 24 hours later but trained on Friday and should be ready for Saturday's clash.

Ryan Giggs may also be involved given Park Ji-Sung's uninspiring contribution on Wednesday, while Anderson might also come into contention.

"I have nothing definite in mind but I will freshen up in one or two places,'' said Ferguson.

"With the squad I have it is definitely something I am able to do.''

Ferguson is convinced his troops have the strength to handle the clash.

Even a draw, with a three-point advantage and a better goal difference, would be almost enough for United as they head into the final two games.

But the United boss knows how much confidence his side would gain from sealing the championship at the home of their closest challengers. And he is backing his squad to finish the job.

"The incentives are all there for us over the next few days - and we have the players and the squad to do it,'' he said.

"It's a massive game, one that will take care of itself in terms of focus, we just have to make sure we are properly rested and properly prepared.''

By remaining in Barcelona overnight following their midweek exertions, Ferguson has done his best to minimise any tiredness United's players may be feeling.

And he is confident his other major concern, his side's poor passing in the Nou Camp, will prove to be no more than a temporary blip.

"We have to recover our passing ability because it was an area that let us down on Wednesday,'' he said.

"It was surprising because normally we are very good at that part of our game. But I am sure we will get it back.

"Our record against them is not great but overall, I guess it balances itself out.''

Chelsea are expected to be without Frank Lampard's following the death of his mother after coach Avram Grant insisted the decision on playing would be left to the grieving player .

"He didn't train (on Friday) and I can tell you that all our thoughts are with him,'' said Grant.

"We are in contact. Frank was very close to his family, so it's not an easy situation.

"He's a professional with full commitment to the team. For the moment, because we have a game, we will keep it between me and him. We need to respect him.

"We are a close family here at Chelsea and all our sympathies are with him and his family. We just want to make sure that, when Frank comes back, we will still be fighting.

"I think he will not play, but we need to speak with him. In these things, football is very important but there are things that are more important. It's how he feels with this.

"All the players and the staff were very sad because of him. We cannot say more than all our sympathies are with him.''

It is understood that both teams will wear black armbands as a mark of respect for Lampard's loss.

Michael Essien, suspended for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final draw at Liverpool on Tuesday, returns to the squad.

Germany captain Michael Ballack looks set to have an important role to play in midfield as the Blues seek to close the gap on United.

The 31-year-old feels he is in good shape for the final push, after having been forced to sit out the early part of the campaign because of an ankle problem.

"It's always important to be in good shape and at your best at the end of the season, when it's all about the championships,'' Ballack said.

"I didn't play for half a year, because of my ankle injury, which is why this season doesn't feel drawn-out to me.

"I feel fit and I'm highly motivated.''

A chance to make history

Sir Alex Ferguson says his players are fully prepared for what could be a monumental four days in the club's history.

The Reds have the chance to all but seal a tenth Premier League title with victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

And they can book their place in next month's Champions League final in Moscow with victory over Barcelona on Tuesday at Old Trafford.

The United boss is relishing the tasks ahead and has the uppermost confidence in his team to rise to the occasion.

"We could achieve quite a lot in the next few days. The incentives are all there and we have the players to do it," declared Sir Alex. "We just have to make sure we are rested properly and prepared for both games.

"We have to recover our passing ability a bit better. That was one area that let us down [in Barcelona]. That was surprising because normally we are very good at that as we showed in Rome.

"We will get back to that at Chelsea. I think we will be alright."

Vidic set to return

Nemanja Vidic looks set to play in United's lunchtime trip to Stamford Bridge on Saturday after recovering from a stomach virus.

The Serbian defender missed the Reds' Champions League clash in Barcelona on Wednesday, but was able to train on Friday morning and is now all but certain to start against Chelsea.

"Vidic will hopefully be okay," confirmed Sir Alex. "He has trained this morning. We are hopeful he will be fit. He has a good chance. We dealt with it [the virus] right away. We got him to the hospital quickly. We hope he is going to be alright."

The United boss also confirmed he would make one or two changes to the side which earned a 0-0 draw at the Nou Camp.

"I will freshen up one or two positions. With the squad I've got, I can do that. There's nothing definite at the moment but I will make a couple of changes."

The big games just keep coming for United with the semi-final second leg against Barcelona at Old Trafford on Tuesday. But Sir Alex feels the scheduling of the last four clashes, either side of the lunchtime visit to South London, have gone against the Reds.

"The Liverpool fixture with Chelsea was Tuesday followed by Wednesday, so there is four days either way to get themselves ready, which is a big advantage, there is no question about that," stated the boss.

"Unfortunately, we have 60 hours to prepare for this game. All we can do is rest them. We stayed overnight in Barcelona. Then we had a light training session at Barcelona's training ground. Being in the sun and having a day relaxing is probably the best thing we could have done.

"Once you shake hands with the devil, there is nothing you can do about it. It is not fair but what can you do? It happened to us last year after the semi-final with AC Milan, when we had to play Manchester City on the Saturday lunchtime straight afterwards. We just get on with it."