Chelsea and Manchester United meet for the second time in the Champions League tomorrow in the first leg of their quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.
At 23/20, the Blues are favourites to win the first meeting in Europe between the two sides since the 2008 Champions League final, although United are more fancied to make it through to the semi-final stage of this year’s competition at 9/10.
The pairing of the two Premier League clubs gives rise to an interesting question: will the game, as Gordon Strachan suggested in an interview with the BBC, be an open English game with Champions League music or will it be a tactically-nuanced cagey affair more traditionally associated with the advanced stages of European competition?
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s preferred tactic in recent years has been to put five across midfield away from home with a view to restricting the opposition and grabbing a goal on the counter-attack.
This was the case when United played Arsenal in the semi-final stage of the competition in 2009 – albeit when defending a 1-0 lead from the first leg – and there is no reason to suggest Ferguson will change his approach on Wednesday.
As such, goals are likely to be at a premium and a successful £10 bet on there to be fewer than 1.5 goals in the match would earn £28.
Chelsea’s edge in recent meetings
According to United defender Nemanja Vidic, Chelsea’s recent supremacy over the Red Devils gives them the edge going into the match.
The Blues have won their last three competitive encounters with United and Ferguson’s men have not won at Stamford Bridge since a 3-0 victory in 2002.
With this in mind, a 1-0 Chelsea victory could be a good bet at 23/4.
Past Champions League history
However, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti believes United’s greater experience could ultimately prove decisive, suggesting it is as important a factor as recent form.
“We have to play against a fantastic team with tradition and history in the Champions League and that counts,” Ancelotti said in an interview with the Chelsea website.
“The reason why Milan won the Champions League a lot of times is the tradition of the club and for Man United it is the same.
“They have fantastic players and a fantastic coach but history and tradition of this club is also the power.”
A £10 stake on Manchester United to progress to the semi-final would return £19. New customers can register here to receive a £25 free bet.