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22 Sep 2007 09:33
A new era without Jose Mourinho gets under way at Old Trafford for Chelsea on Sunday, as they play their first English Premiership match under new manager Avram Grant against Manchester United.
Mourinho’s time at the Stamford Bridge helm came to an end in the build-up to their visit to the current champions.
Exactly what can be expected from the new man in charge, nobody really knows. However, club owner Roman Abramovich wants to see free-flowing, attacking football, so it would be fair to assume they will not sit back against their title rivals.
Forward Salomon Kalou is likely to start on Sunday and has been trying to approach the game as he has done in all matches previously.
“Like always, it’s difficult to go there,” he said.
New manager Grant was introduced to the media on Friday at Stamford Bridge, and made it clear he feels he is capable of dealing with the job. His first task as manager is probably one of the most difficult he could have had.
However, Claudio Ranieri began his reign in 2000 with a visit to Old Trafford on exactly the same date and managed to record a 3-3 draw. That statistic will give Chelsea supporters hope that the players will be able to focus on their efforts on the field this weekend.
Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager, has stated he was sad to see Mourinho leave Chelsea. The reality is, though, that part of him will be delighted.
Ferguson managed just the one league success over him over the past three years and will surely feel his untimely departure gives United the upper hand for this latest encounter.
“We are focused on ourselves. We are still playing against Chelsea; they still have the same players and that in itself is a challenge for us. If you look at the record over the last three years, there is nothing in it, few goals are scored. It is always a tight game.”
United are in better form than their visitors and their ability to grind out 1-0 victories has become noticeable. They have won the past four matches by that score line.
As Chelsea travel to Manchester, it seems Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba are likely to miss out once again through injury. It is expected that Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko will start in attack again.
Meanwhile, England internationals Gary Neville and Owen Hargreaves will both be missing for Manchester United due to thigh injuries.
Ferguson has no other injuries to contend with and will use the same squad that won against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.—Sapa-AFP
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