Capital One Cup
October 31, 2012
Chelsea duo set to miss United match
Roberto Di Matteo is pondering whether to leave John Obi Mikel or Juan Mata out of Chelsea's Capital One Cup clash with Manchester United.
Blues boss Di Matteo was always likely to consider resting the midfield duo, given the number of changes the club traditionally make for League Cup ties.
But he also had to take into account their emotional state after it emerged they were the players Chelsea accused referee Mark Clattenburg of using "inappropriate language'' towards during Sunday's explosive Barclays Premier League game against United.
It was unclear whether either would prefer to sit out their revenge mission, which takes place against a backdrop of yet another racism saga that threatens to drag English football through the mud.
Clattenburg, who faces police and Football Association investigations, is understood to categorically deny any wrongdoing.
The official in the middle of what could be a febrile atmosphere at Stamford Bridge is Lee Mason, who United boss Sir Alex Ferguson jokingly wished, "Good luck!'' even before the serious allegations about Clattenburg emerged.
That was because of the decision by Sunday's referee to send off two Chelsea players and failure to spot Javier Hernandez's winning goal should have been disallowed for offside.
By accident or by design, the atmosphere could be helped by the likelihood of both sides making a raft of changes for the fourth-round clash.
Fernando Torres and Branislav Ivanovic are both suspended following their red cards on Sunday, with John Terry is also banned.
Ashley Cole was likely to be among those rested and is suffering with an ankle problem anyway, while Frank Lampard remains out.
"It is certainly a tricky situation,'' Di Matteo told his club's official website, www.chelseafc.com.
"It is also our fourth game in 10 days and they have all been big games, so we are looking to freshen the team up a little bit for sure, and also put a couple of youngsters in.
"We always talk about developing and giving youngsters a chance so this type of game is a good opportunity for some of them.''
Daniel Sturridge, Cesar Azpilicueta and Lucas Piazon - who has shaken off a hamstring strain - all look certain to start.
They could be joined by Victor Moses, Marko Marin, Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand if Mikel and Mata are given a breather, and youngsters George Saville and Nathan Ake may also be included in the first-team squad.
United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has confirmed that he intends to rotate his squad.
The 2-1 victory over Newcastle in round three saw the likes of youngster Michael Keane, Marnick Vermijl and Scott Wootton given starts along with new signing Alexander Buttner while Nick Powell and Ryan Tunnicliffe came off the bench.
Wayne Rooney and Darren Fletcher were among the senior players to feature but both were coming back from injury.
Ferguson told MUTV: "Obviously we will make changes for the Wednesday game.
"The squad that played against Newcastle will be in place again.
"You don't want to lose down there and we want to continue in the cup.
"Any game down there is going to be tough. There has been good progress there since Roberto di Matteo took the job. They are big games - and big games are good for us.''
The game will come too soon for injured defenders Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Neither player has featured this season with Smalling having broken a metatarsal in the summer and Jones having been hampered by back and knee problems.
Smalling, 22, is back in training and with Nemanja Vidic currently sidelined after knee surgery, his return for United could not come soon enough.
Ferguson said: "We will try to push Chris on quickly. I don't think he will make Wednesday's game but I am sure he will be ready for the following week.
"There was some hope both he and Phil would be back for this busy schedule.
"Phil will be starting football training next Monday. He still has some running to do. The good news is they are not far away.''
United's busy programme continues as they face Arsenal in the Premier League on Saturday and then travel to Braga in the Champions League next week.