Here we go again. Just days after Sunday's contentious and controversial 3-2 victory by Manchester United over Chelsea, the two sides are set to meet again at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for a Capital One Cup clash. This fixture, though, is likely to be a calmer affair and most of the players who participated during the weekend are likely to be rested. Nonetheless, this is the clear headline match-up in Round 4 of this cup competition and it's very possible that both sides will have exciting and talented youngsters on display. United earned passage to this round with a 3-2 defeat of Newcastle United in September while Chelsea thumped Wolves 6-0.
Most of the injuries to Sir Alex Ferguson's squad have occurred to his central-defenders. The likes of Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones are not expected to be available nor is playmaker Shinji Kagawa. Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans are anticipated to be rested so youngsters Scott Wootton and Michael Keane could get a run-out in central-defense. Alexander Buttner probably deputises for Patrice Evra at left-back while Marnick Vermijl could start at right-back so that Rafael is given a rest. If David de Gea is given a rest, then Anders Lindegaard could pop up in goal.
Anderson is in need of a game and he likely features in central-midfield while the likes of Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Nick Powell, and Jesse Lingard are in contention as well. If Fergie stays away from a diamond formation and uses a system with wingers instead, then Nani is probable on one flank while Ireland international Robbie Brady could make his debut for United's first-team on the other flank. Giggs and Danny Welbeck are possible to pop up on the left flank as well. Up front, Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney are nearly certain to be rested and this could offer up opportunities for Welbeck and/or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito). Federico Macheda and/or 18-year-old Angelo Henriquez are in contention to start as well in attack.
If No.1 Peter Cech is rested, then Ross Turnbull is the likely goalkeeper. John Terry is suspended so that makes Gary Cahill and David Luiz the likely center-back partnership. If Ashley Cole is rotated out, then that leaves a potential opportunity for Ryan Bertrand at left-back while Cesar Azpilicueta is expected at right-back for the suspended Branislav Ivanovic. In the double-pivot of manager Roberto Di Matteo's 4-2-3-1 system, Oriol Romeu is possible to start and he could be partnered by either Ramires or John Obi Mikel. Frank Lampard is unavailable due to injury.
In the attacking-midfield band, any of first-choice trio of Juan Mata, Oscar, and Eden Hazard are possible and one probably will be in the No.10 role. In the wider areas, Victor Moses, Marko Marin, and Lucas Piazon are in contention as well. Up front, with Fernando Torres suspended, Daniel Sturridge is probable as the lead striker.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
* Which youngsters will get an opportunity?: As mentioned earlier, Wootton and Keane appear most likely to get a game out of the youngsters due to the dire injury situation in central-defense. The duo had a similar opportunity in the cup tie versus Newcastle and they generally impressed. Rafael has been getting nearly every game as of late at right-back so Vermijl actually seems like a real possibility to spell the Brazilian. Powell seems possible as well and he most likely would feature as the playmaker in a midfield diamond or as the central player in behind the lead striker in a possible 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 shape. Brady is probably a bit more of a long shot to start but the 20-year-old has been impressing for Ireland during recent international breaks and he could make his first appearance for United's senior side.
Fergie has often used this competition to blood young players into the first team and because it's the fourth most important one for United in most seasons, the result is generally less important than the performances by some individuals. Of course though, if United were to make a deep run and get to Wembley, lifting the League Cup would be the clear aim in that scenario. For this match though, enjoy watching the young players who get an opportunity and don't sweat the result too much.
* Can Chicharito keep his goalscoring going?: It has been a monstrous week for Chicharito as he bagged a brace last midweek during the UEFA Champions League tie against Braga and he then scored the winner versus Chelsea last weekend. The Mexican international should be decently rested as he came on late at the Bridge as a substitute. If he gets the start, can the suddenly in-form striker keep his goalscoring going and keep the pressure on Fergie to use him more?
* The form of the first-team players not getting many games: These League Cup ties are opportunities not only for young players, but also for established first-team players that haven't been getting regular games. Anderson fits into this category and even though his performances have been just fine thus far this season, he's definitely behind the likes of Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, and Scholes in the central-midfield pecking order. He seems likely to get a game and it'll be interesting to see if he's still in decent form. Fletcher continues his comeback from serious illness and he could get an opportunity to build on his form and fitness as well.
There have been a lot of rumblings lately it seems about a possible Nani exit in January or in the summer. He's certainly fallen behind Antonio Valencia and Welbeck lately in the pecking order out wide while it was Ashley Young that got the surprise start on Sunday after being out for the past two months due to injury. Will Nani play in this match? He needs games and if Fergie steers clear of a midfield diamond system, the Portuguese international seems likely to start on one of the flanks. He's a hugely talented player and due to the congested fixture list United always have and due to injuries likely to occur as the season wears on, he likely will become an important player again at some point. On his day, he can be unplayable and it would be nice to see flashes of that brilliance again.
KO: 7:45pm GMT, 3:45pm EST | Stamford Bridge
Live TV: Sky Sports 1 (U.K.), beIN Sport (U.S.A.)
Referee: Lee Mason
Odds: Chelsea 5/4, Draw 12/5, Manchester United 21/10