Michael Carrick expects the familiarity and respect between Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC to result in a close UEFA Champions League quarter-final which could be decided by slender margins.
With the teams perennially jockeying for position at the Premier League summit and having each beaten the other once this season, the United midfielder accepts the margins could again be fine as they meet again, starting at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Furthermore, Carrick's side have conceded just twice in eight European games this term and Chelsea are taking time to adjust to a 4-4-2 formation adopted following Fernando Torres's arrival, making the 29-year-old's thoughts compelling ones.
We obviously know Chelsea very well and they know us very well, so neither team will be giving much away," said Carrick, a starter in United's 2-1 league loss at Stamford Bridge last month. "Maybe away goals will end up playing a big part. We have different strengths and weaknesses to them but we know each other so well that we only learn little things now, and that's why I think the games will be so tight."
The last time the clubs met in this competition it was certainly that, with United prevailing 6-5 on penalties in the 2008 final following a 1-1 draw. Carrick converted the Red Devils' second spot kick that rainy night in Moscow as United profited in the shoot-out from, famously, a John Terry slip before Edwin van der Sar saved decisively from Nicolas Anelka.
"The emotion you get from that and the buzz and the adrenaline is incredible," recalled Carrick of the Luzhniki Stadium encounter. "To actually get your hands on that trophy is just a dream and to be able to do that was a special feeling."
Ominously for their opponents, United have reached the last eight without, according to Carrick, clicking into gear. Sir Alex Ferguson's men have scored more than one goal in a UEFA Champions League match just twice this term; in contrast, Chelsea have done it no fewer than six times.
I don't think we've hit the heights in performance we'd have hoped to, but we've had good results and defensively we've been very good," added the former West Ham United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC player, who signed a new three-year deal at Old Trafford last month. "The balance has been pretty good, but while we'd like to score more, it's about winning and getting through to the next stage. Hopefully, we can keep finding that right balance."
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