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Carlo Ancelotti not yet settled on strike force

ANALYSIS
By Danny Hart

When Chelsea splashed out £50 million on Fernando Torres in January, it immediately changed the balance of the Stamford Bridge strikeforce.

Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda were no longer the preferred attacking trio at the club, with Carlo Ancelotti keen to experiment with a number of different systems to get the best out of the Spaniard.

The Blues, now in fifth place in the Premier League and 15 points off the top of the table, host league leaders Manchester United on Tuesday night looking to keep their slim title hopes alive, while also having the opportunity to further test out their new strike force.

Torres looks set to start as he attempts to break his Chelsea duck, but Anelka, who has played at the tip of a midfield diamond and across the frontline in recent weeks, and Drogba are far from certain of beginning the match against Sir Alex Ferguson’s men.

With places still up for grabs ahead of Tuesday’s game, Goal.com UK takes a look at how Torres, Drogba and Anelka have fared against United in the past.

TORRES DROGBA ANELKA

ALL-TIME RECORD AGAINST MANCHESTER UNITED
APPEARANCES
GOALS
MINUTES PLAYED
MINUTES PER GOAL
7
3
591
197
APPEARANCES
GOALS
MINUTES PLAYED
MINUTES PER GOAL
15
2
1132
566
APPEARANCES
GOALS
MINUTES PLAYED
MINUTES PER GOAL
24
6
1724
287

While Torres leads the way in terms of minutes per goal, he has played the least games of the players. But three goals in just under 600 minutes of football is no mean feat, especially given the quality of opposition.

Nemanja Vidic, who is set to be partnered by youngster Chris Smalling again at Stamford Bridge, has struggled to deal with Torres in recent times, being sent off on two occasions when facing the World Cup winner, including in Liverpool’s famous 4-1 win at Old Trafford in 2009.

The Red Devils skipper isn’t the only defender Torres has tormented in the past, with Rio Ferdinand having failed to stay tight enough to the Spain international in a league fixture in 2009, allowing him to open the scoring in a 2-0 Liverpool victory at Anfield - another match where Vidic saw red.

Torres’ statistics are in stark contract to Drogba’s, with the Ivorian having by far the worst record against United.

However, the 32-year-old has scored the most important goals of the three players against the Red Devils. He grabbed a late winner deep into extra-time in the 2007 FA Cup final to secure the trophy for the Blues, while he scored the goal that arguably decided the title last season - the winner in a 2-1 victory over Ferguson’s side at Old Trafford.

Despite maintaining an impressive record against most Premier League sides during his time in England, most notably Arsenal, Drogba has not shown his best form against United, in particular in the 2008 Champions League final, when he saw red in extra-time for slapping Vidic.

Anelka, Chelsea’s top scorer this season with 16 goals, has, like Drogba, not been able to create his best goalscoring form against United.

Some may point to the Frenchman’s time at clubs who would have been underdogs in matches with Ferguson’s side, Manchester City and Bolton, as a key reason behind his poor record, but four of his six goals were scored in his early days of his career at Arsenal, meaning he has found the net just twice in his last 17 meetings with the Red Devils.

Neither of those goals have come in a Chelsea shirt, with the striker having still not scored against United for the Blues. And to make matters worse for the former Real Madrid man, he had his decisive penalty in the shoot-out saved by Edwin van der Sar in the Champions League final.

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