Manchester United v Chelsea match preview

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The Independent Football

Home advantage and a crucial away goal mean that Manchester United look favourites to progress to the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Chelsea this evening.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s side have never lost a European tie having won the first leg and only twice – Inter Milan earlier this year and Ajax in 1996 - has a club progressed to the next round having lost the first game at home.

A Wayne Rooney goal separated the two sides in the quarter final first leg at Stamford Bridge last week, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side can take inspiration from their 2-1 victory at Old Trafford last year. A similar score-line tonight would see them through to the semi-finals on away goals.

The last 10 meetings between the two sides at Old Trafford have yielded four United wins, three Chelsea victories and three draws which further suggests that the tie is far from over.

United fans will also remember that Real Madrid came to Old Trafford at the same stage of the competition in 2000 and left with a 3-2 to victory. While in 1997 Borussia Dortmund won 1-0 in Manchester, having lost the first leg at home by the same score-line, and progressed to the final after a penalty shootout victory.

However, the current Premier League leaders’ European home record in recent years has been formidable. Their only defeat in their last 35 games came in 2009 when Besiktas recorded a 1-0 victory. While AC Milan’s 1-0 win in 2005 was the last time any team won a knockout game at Old Trafford.

Chelsea’s away record in Champions League, however, is also impressive. They have scored in seven of their last eight European trips and kept clean sheets in half of these games too.

More worrying for Ancelotti is the fact that his side has failed to score in three of their last four matches in Europe and since January 31st his misfiring strikers – who have a combined value of nearly £100m – have only netted five goals between them.

Yossi Benayoun and Alex’s return to first team action on the weekend does mean that the Italian has a full squad – with the exception of the ineligible David Luiz – to choose from though.

United meanwhile are at full strength apart from right back Rafael and Darren Fletcher who both look likely to miss out.