A guarded Carlo Ancelotti refreshingly refused to reveal his planned formation for Chelsea FC against Manchester United, or even the players under consideration for the starting lineup. It's a nice change considering the rather cocky fashion with which he tossed around full team selection days in advance earlier in the season, back when were invincible. 'Here we are,' he used to say, 'come and get us'. Well, we've been got, and so now it's time to try to spring a surprise or two on our opponents.
If you're looking for some clues, though, Ancelotti is quoted on ChelseaFC.com as saying he's thinking about playing the same flat 4-4-2 as he used against Copenhagen:
With [the 4-4-2] we can have less possession of the ball but we can use the ball more up front and use the speed of the strikers. In a different shape we can have more possession and more control of the game and which kind of tactic we want to use in this game depends on which of those we want.
I've been pretty outspoken about my disdain for the 4-4-2 here, and that's not about to change - I believe central midfield is the most important area of the pitch and 4-4-2 ignores the central midfield. Obviously Carlo has forgotten way more about football than I'll ever know, so you might as well trust him over me, but if we go down the traditional route we're simply relying on our players to be better than theirs, despite being four places below them in the table. It's asking for trouble.
Regardless, Ancelotti has left himself a big out clause in that statement. A different shape, he says, would provide control of the match, while a 4-4-2 would allow quicker movement. It all depends on the type of game he wants to see - composed buildup play and strong defence or an all-out slugfest between two giants of the game? Personally, I'd play it safe here, and I think Carlo will probably end up doing so as well.
Although the 4-4-2 was very effective against Copenhagen last week in our 2-0 victory, a lot of that was to do with the opposition's relatively low quality and total failure to press Chelsea in the midfield. Against another side Frank Lampard and Michael Essien would probably have been overwhelmed in the centre (Lampard was pretty dire apart from his gorgeous pass to Nicolas Anelka for the striker's second goal), and I think Ancelotti knows this. The flat 4-4-2 is a cool trick to bludgeon weak teams, not something we can realistically go at United with.
So, we still don't really know anything about what the team will look like or the players we'll use. This is going to be fun!