Avram's revenge mission

Chelsea coach Avram Grant (GETTY IMAGES)

Chelsea may have suffered heartache in last Sunday's gripping climax to the Premier League, but a victory in the first all-English Champions League final would be the perfect tonic for the post-season Blues.

The draw at home to Bolton did not have any effect on the eventual destination of the trophy, yet it could well provide a side-story in the run-up to the match at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.

John Terry, Chelsea's talismanic captain, suffered a dislocated elbow in a collision with goalkeeper Petr Cech and the Stamford Bridge medical staff will be working overtime to make sure the defender is ready to renew old battles with champions Manchester United.

The two league encounters this season have been hot-tempered affairs, with Jon Obi Mikel seeing red at old Trafford and Rio Ferdinand confronting the Nigerian midfielder in the clash in London last month. Chelsea's groundsman even waded in with United left-back Patrice Evra during their post-match warm-down.

It is no secret that these two clubs simply do not like each other. The rivalry stoked by recent title contentions and ill-feeling surrounding transfers – Mikel stand up again – has seen United become the sort of enemy that Chelsea once viewed in neighbours Tottenham.

The mind games between the managers have already begun too. Sir Alex Ferguson hinted after their league triumph that the Red Devils deserve praise for the style and verve displayed on their way to securing a 10th Premier League crown.

It could have only been a swipe at their rivals, however, who have long been lambasted for their methodical, machine-like mastery.

Avram Grant has hit back by suggesting that United's narrow escape at the league's summit will only serve to galvanise his troops ahead of their showdown in Moscow.

The billionaire club have already put one ghost to rest in this year's tournament, when they finally banished the hoodoo Liverpool exercised over them in Europe's elite competition.

Didier Drogba's defiant display at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final broke the Merseyside club's stranglehold over the Blues at the third time of asking, and the mega-rich stars of the London club will be eager to get their own back on a United side still shining their league-winners' medals.

It may be the middle of May when the battle resumes in the metropolis of Moscow on Wednesday night, but Chelsea will be keen to prove that revenge is a dish best served cold.


Head to head


United: The Reds have possibly the best central pairing in the game with the quick and intelligent Rio Ferdinand complimenting the brute force and determination of Nemanja Vidic. At right-back, Wes Brown has made up for the loss of Gary Neville this season and Patrice Evra on the opposite flank is as good going forward as he is defensively. Behind the back four is the experienced Edwin Van der Sar.

Chelsea: Marshalled by captain John Terry, the back four are one of the meanest around. Ricardo Carvalho is positionally astute and strong in the air. At left-back, the Blues have Ashley Cole, who has had a troubled past few months off the field. When fully focused he outshines most in his position. Paulo Ferreira at right-back is the only weak link in a rearguard that plays in front of arguably the world's best goalkeeper in Petr Cech.


United: Fergie's midfield is stronger than it has ever been with Owen Hargreaves offering bite in the centre of the park that allows Michael Carrick and the evergreen Paul Scholes the freedom to supply the forwards. Anderson has had a sparkling debut season and can sit back or attack if needed, and Portuguese winger Nani gives the Old Trafford boss options from the bench with his pace and trickery. Ryan Giggs will be used as an impact substitute.

Chelsea: A midfield five is Grant's weapon of choice with Claude Makelele protecting the back four. Michael Essien and Frank Lampard provide the drive, with both players capable of striking from distance. German international Michael Ballack has come good and is a man for the big stage. Joe Cole offers the spark in a regimented quintet, and his dribbling can bewitch defenders. Speedy Shaun Wright-Phillips is an option from the bench.


United: Wayne Rooney has been used as a lone striker, but often seems more productive with a partner up front. His has been relatively quiet in terms of goals, leaving most of the headline writing to Cristiano Ronaldo. The winger has been sensational and often plays as a forward in Europe. His seven goals make him the competition's top scorer. Carlos Tevez is a terrier and has struck late in a number of important games for United.

Chelsea: To play with a lone striker requires your man up front to be big, strong and quick, and Blues hitman Didier Drogba has all these attributes. The African combines skill with power and is only one goal behind Ronaldo in the competition. Andrei Shevchenko and Salomon Kalou are able deputies, but neither is as difficult to handle as the Ivory Coast star. Nicolas Anelka will be called upon should Grant need a goal.


Key encounters


Sir Alex Ferguson has already won the battle for the Premier League trophy this season and will be confident of coming up trumps again in Moscow. The Scotsman has been in this situation before and made inspired substitutions to win the final against Bayern Munich in 1999. His opposite number, Avram Grant, has slowly turned the fans in his favour, but his tactics in big games have often been found wanting.


Nemanja Vidic, the towering United centre-back will be in for a busy night marking Didier Drogba. The Serb clashed with the powerful striker at Stamford Bridge in the league last month, leaving Vidic with a missing tooth and gashed lip. Drogba proved in the semi-final against Liverpool that he is the man for the big occasion, but the Ivory Coast star rarely gets the better of United's defensive rock and may struggle.


Paul Scholes makes up for missing the 1999 final through suspension and the midfield maestro should be extra motivated to have a say in Moscow. The playmaker scored a stunning goal to put United into the final, but will face a difficult opponent in the centre of the park. Chelsea's Michael Essien is both tenacious and dynamic and has grown in influence at the London club. The Ghananian has an eye for goal too.


Cristiano Ronaldo comes up against his compatriot in Moscow but there is little hope that United's No7 will go easy on Paulo Ferreira. The Chelsea right-back is charged with containing the best player in the world on current form, and has found it hard to cope with lesser opponents this season. Ronaldo's record of 41 goals in 50 games should give Ferreira some sleepless nights until they meet at the Luzhniki on Wednesday.