Juan Mata is a key figure in Chelsea's midfield. (Getty Images)
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has acknowledged the ever-increasing might of Chelsea by saying “playing Chelsea these days is like facing Barcelona”.
United are on the road to Chelsea on Sunday and Fletcher admits the task at hand is massive. Though he has played three Champions League games and a Capital One Cup match, it is his first Premier League game in 11 months since recovering from chronic bowel.
Fletcher, 28, told the Sun: “We do need a result at Stamford Bridge. It has been a while since we’ve had a win there in the Premier League. We know they are in great form in the league, but they lost in Europe this week, so that might help us a little bit. We have great confidence in ourselves and we will go looking for a win. But it is a different Chelsea side now.
“It used to be a big, strong, physical side. Playing against Michael Ballack, Claude Makele and Frank Lampard in midfield and Didier Drogba up front. Now you are facing more Barcelona-like players. They have small, intricate players who get in the pockets behind you and they play killer passes. It is different to what we have faced but it will be a new challenge.
“Because they look to get in the pocket behind you as a midfielder you are never really up against anyone. You have to be aware, look over your shoulder, be talking and have good communication because they want to get in behind you.
“But at the same time it gives you opportunities to break on them. I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are easier to play against now. It’s a challenge both ways.”
Ryan Giggs, the man instrumental in many comeback wins for Alex Ferguson’s team, toes Fletcher’s line. Giggs said: “They have always had that experience and power, but they have changed it a little bit with the lads they have brought in. They brought in clever players like Mata and Hazard. They play in those little pockets and are hard to pick up. They have changed personnel, but one thing that won’t change is that we know it will always be tough against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.”
Fletcher is also impressed with the Blues midfield trio of Mata, Hazard and Oscar. “They seem to have managed to adapt to the style straightaway. They have really kicked on with the new style this season and have hit the ground running.
If I’m chosen it would be the biggest game of my comeback. But as you get older you are ready for these types of games. I have always enjoyed them but I am fully aware that I am still on my way back. You are just happy to be back when you have been through a lot like I have. I want to be involved as much as I can.”