By Adam MacKinnon
Having promised Manchester United FC manager Sir Alex Ferguson that he will produce "a beautiful bottle of Portuguese wine" after tonight's English League Cup semi-final second leg at Old Trafford, Chelsea FC's José Mourinho will also be hoping that his side serve up a vintage performance on the pitch.
Following the goalless first-leg draw at Stamford Bridge earlier this month, Chelsea face a tough match against a confident United side. However, the Premiership leaders' own form has been such that few would bet against them progressing to the final against Liverpool FC at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 27 February.
Mourinho, who celebrates his 42nd birthday today, was pragmatic about his side's chances as he reflected on the first leg and looked forward to the second. "I was very happy with our performance against United," he said. "They are a great team and they did well to clear two shots off the line. If we score against them at Old Trafford then we will give ourselves a good chance of going through."
Mourinho is likely to be able to select from a full squad for the trip to Manchester, with Eidur Gudjohnsen possibly starting up front in preference to in-form Didier Drogba and Carlo Cudicini coming in for No1 goalkeeper Petr Cech. Like his opposite number, Sir Alex was keen to stress that pre-match emphasis should be placed on the players.
"Mourinho's done fantastically well at Chelsea, but this isn't about José Mourinho or Alex Ferguson," said the United manager. "This is about 22 great players on the pitch. Both sides have got match-winners and great players. It is much more important to talk about the players." Sir Alex will be without both Ruud van Nistelrooij and Ryan Giggs, but may welcome back striker Alan Smith to the starting lineup following his recovery from an ankle injury sustained in the first leg.
With Chelsea looking for a third League Cup triumph and still in contention for four trophies this season and United under Sir Alex having the enviable record of never losing a domestic cup semi-final in 18 years, the prospects are indeed intriguing.
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