Chelsea to face Man United in semis

Chelsea meets Manchester United in England's second-tier knockout competition, the League Cup.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:47 IST
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Chelsea could not have picked a better time to face Manchester United. The two giants meet on Wednesday for the second time this season in England's second-tier knockout competition, the League Cup. Liverpool hosts Football League Championship side Watford in the other semifinal. Chelsea faces an embarrassed United, which is in disarray after its millionaire players could not beat semipro Exeter in the FA Cup third round on Saturday. After the 0-0 draw, the two will meet in a replay on January 19. Strong side? Chelsea beat United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season in a strong start under new manager Jose Mourinho. The Blues have since excelled in the Premier League while United has struggled. Traditionally, big clubs field second-string sides in the League Cup. United, having made that mistake on Saturday, won't be doing it again as striker Wayne Rooney looks set to return for the match at Chelsea. "It is possible Wayne will play on Wednesday," United manager Alex Ferguson said yesterday. "He has missed the last three games but he has been doing well in training, so it is a consideration." Missing players United is already without injured strikers Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha. Ferguson said he had expected more from his younger players including Eric Djemba-Djemba, Liam Miller and David Bellion against Exeter, a club ranked 100 place below the Red Devils. "I was hamstrung with the number of injuries to the first team squad," Ferguson said. "That is the reason for choosing the team I did. But if I can't play my younger players at home in front of 67,000 people in an FA Cup tie against a non-league team there is something wrong." Chelsea had a scare in its FA Cup tie against Scunthorpe, trailing 1-0 before winning 3-1. But the Blues' second team is still strong enough to challenge any Premier League club. Liverpool missed out on its FA Cup match at Burnley on Friday because of a waterlogged pitch. The extra day's rest means manager Rafa Benitez will field a strong lineup against Watford, including striker Milan Baros. He returns after nearly two months out with a hamstring injury. Captain Steven Gerrard is also expected to play. "We know we are also in the semifinal of the Carling (League) Cup and it is important to put out a strong side that can win and get us to the final," Benitez said. "And there is a trophy at stake here, which we want to win." Tough task Watford proved it could match Premier League opposition when it drew 1-1 with Fulham in the FA Cup on Saturday. Manager Ray Lewington said Liverpool was a tougher task. "What they have got to do is play their normal game as much as possible," Lewington said. "Sometimes with the adrenaline, you actually play above yourself when you go to these places. Let's get in there and if they beat us, they beat us." The second legs are scheduled to be played Jan. 18-19. The final is on February 27, with the winner earning a spot in next season's UEFA Cup. (AP)