Chelsea aim to steal march on shaky United

LONDON - Manchester United sit just two points behind Chelsea in the table but as they prepare to visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday there is a sense that something is not quite right with the Premier League champions.

LONDON - Manchester United sit just two points behind Chelsea in the table but as they prepare to visit Stamford Bridge on Sunday there is a sense that something is not quite right with the Premier League champions.

Last month's 2-0 defeat at Liverpool was a sobering experience for Sir Alex Ferguson and was proof the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez to Manchester City has severely weakened his team's attack.

There are also worries at the back with Rio Ferdinand clearly off the pace and Nemanja Vidic jittery.

While defeat at Stamford Bridge would not be catastrophic, Ferguson knows that a repeat of the Anfield debacle at Chelsea could put Carlo Ancelotti's team in the driver's seat in the title race as winter looms.

"It's always a hard game at Chelsea, but we'll deal with it better than we did at Anfield, I'm sure of that," Ferguson said on Wednesday.

United lacked fluency in their last Premier League game, a 2-0 home win against Blackburn Rovers, while against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League at Old Trafford on Tuesday their defence was a shambles.

Ancelotti's favoured midfield diamond is beginning to shine, giving the Blues both security at the back and potency up front where Didier Drogba looks back to his best after two goals in the 2-2 draw at Atletico Madrid.

While United struggle to fire on all cylinders, Drogba said Chelsea have a great chance to put some early distance between themselves and their biggest rivals. "It's really important for us to beat United at home," he said.

Arsenal can creep above United tomorrow if they win at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Manchester City, at No 4, take on Burnley, while Liverpool try to revive their season at home to Birmingham City on Monday. - Reuters

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