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Chelsea vs. Manchester United Preview

You may stumble on some men in short pants kicking around a ball, mainstream America. Do not be alarmed. FOX will broadcast Manchester United vs. Chelsea live this morning, its third attempt to embed top level European soccer with the American Idol crowd. Live, except for 16 local markets, where it will be preempted by local programming. Piers Morgan will be back in studio, bringing in his unique brand of analysis. For those curious, here’s a quick rundown.

Meaning: This match is vital for both teams. Man U must win to stay tied with Man City on top of the league. Chelsea losing would leave them just two points ahead of Arsenal for the fourth Champions League place, a distinction worth around $60 million next year.

Man U Form: The Red Devils have won three consecutively, after hitting a rough patch with losses to Blackburn and Newcastle around New Years Day. Their pressing issue right now is goalkeeper. Big summer signing David De Gea has struggled with his confidence since arriving. Danish keeper Anders Lindegaard had moved ahead in the pecking order but was injured in training. De Gea should get the start. Expect Chelsea to test him with crosses and shots from long range.

Chelsea Form: The Blues have performed terribly of late, and squandered the chance to cement a Champions League place. Chelsea have won just two of eight matches since beating Man City on Dec. 12, dropping points to the likes of Wigan, Norwich, Fulham and Swansea. They have had a hard time scoring, going nine matches without an open-play goal from a center forward, the last from Didier Drogba on Dec. 3. Today, attention will be at the back, where the Blues must contend without Ashley Cole (suspension) and John Terry (injury). New signing Gary Cahill should make his first start.

Racist Undertones: John Terry’s injury is convenient. It comes a day after being stripped of his England captaincy for the second-time, as he faces a summer trial for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand. This avoids the sticky “will Rio shake hands with him” question. Across the aisle, a 57-year-old Man U fan has been arrested for shouting racist comments at Stoke players on Tuesday.

Prediction: Stamford Bridge is a fortress no longer. Man U 2-1 Chelsea.

[Photo via Getty]

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