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MATCH PREVIEW: Blackpool vs Manchester United

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On Tuesday evening, Premier League leader Manchester United travel to Bloomfield Road to face Blackpool. Prior to the season's start, Blackpool was among the favorites to be relegated from the Premier League. However, manager Ian Holloway and his inspired side have proven the doubters wrong thus far and the Tangerines have arguably been the darlings of the Premier League this season. They have twice defeated Liverpool already, and that no doubt is an endearing quality to United supporters. Led by skipper and talisman Charlie Adam, Blackpool have played some brilliant football this season and their spirit will be a tough test for visiting United. The fine play of the Scot has attracted interest from numerous teams during the current transfer window, including Aston Villa and Liverpool. United come into the match off a 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham City, in which Dimitar Berbatov was a hat-trick hero. Blackpool come into the mid-week fixture off of 2 consecutive losses and currently sit 12th in the table. 

Holloway runs an attacking '4-3-3', which often evolves into a '4-1-2-3.' There is no sitting back and packing it in for the Tangerines, as they go all out on the offensive. While this produces attractive football and a number of goals, it also lends Blackpool vulnerable in the defense and they give up their fair share of goals as well. The whole is certainly greater than the sum of the parts for Holloway's hard-working and determined site. Adam is the playmaker from the central midfield, as he's often the one advancing the ball to the attacking 3 and setting up goal scoring opportunities. He has been the engine of the squad. 

Anticipating the lineup for Blackpool is a difficult task, as Holloway is not afraid of making drastic lineup changes in order to preserve his squad. Blackpool do not have a match next weekend, so it's possible a full strength side is fielded versus United. The status of striker and leading goal scorer DJ Campbell is uncertain as he missed their previous match versus Sunderland due to illness. In addition, defender Stephen Crainey and goalkeeper Richard Kingson were forced to leave the match versus the Black Cats on Saturday due to injury. 

As for United, Rio Ferdinand is still a concern after missing the match versus Birmingham due to a minor groin injury. Michael Carrick was substituted off early in the match versus Brum after his ankle was stomped on during a first half challenge. Park Ji-Sung continues to be unavailable due to national team duties, as the South Korea skipper is set to face off against fierce rival Japan on Tuesday in the Asian Cup semi-finals. Rafael returns from suspension and should be featured in the starting XI at Bloomfield Road. After examining this Charlie Adam chalkboard versus Sunderland , I immediately thought of Darren Fletcher as that's the space of central midfield he typically occupies. After being rested versus Brum, I anticipate Fletcher getting the task of battling Adam in the center of the pitch. Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra were both subbed off early on Saturday, seemingly to be rested for this midweek fixture. Paul Scholes has returned from injury and has yet to see action, despite being in the 18 the past two matches. His ability to spray passes as a deep lying playmaker may be called upon against a vulnerable Blackpool defense. 

This is one of the matches that United have in hand on their title-contending rivals. Any result at Blackpool will further extend United's lead in the Prem. Despite being unbeaten, the league leaders have only earned two victories away from Old Trafford, and will seek to improve on their away form. Three points is the objective. It's possible Sir Alex Ferguson goes with his hybrid '4-3-3/4-5-1' in order to combat the 3 central midfielders of the Tangerines, but my guess is a '4-4-2.' Rather than trying to guess what Blackpool's lineup may be due to possible squad rotation and injury concerns, I'll just show what a typical starting XI is for them. As for United, here's my guess...

 

Blackpool vs Manchester United (1/25/2011) *Projected lineups*

 

If you're seeking more information, check out this fantastic Blackpool blog on their tactics.

For entertainment purposes, here are some great rants by Holloway. I highly recommend viewing these if you already haven't... 

* Holloway thinks Blatter and Platini are numpties

* Holloway's thoughts on Rooney's contract saga earlier this season

* on snoods

on squad rotation

 

Prediction: Blackpool 1 -2 United

 

*UPDATE* : 

- Rio is doubtful, Chris Smalling likely replacing him to partner Vidic as he did vs Brum. Although, Johnny Evans is a posibility.

- Carrick doubtful as well. 

- Holloways says "not a chance" that Adam is left out of the match, despite putting in a transfer request. So expect him to play.... unless a transfer goes through on Tuesday before the evening's game.

- KIngson and Campbell appear ready to play for Blackpool.

- Blackpool left-back Crainey has been ruled out, Alex Baptiste or David Carney is the likely deputy for the Seasiders. This could be potentially very important as Crainey is a well-reputed defender, and his role is important for Blackpool in trying to contain Nani.