Head-to-head: Manchester United vs. Chelsea, key matchups

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With just a few hours until kick off, we’re all expecting an epic battle under the lights at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Chelsea (3pm ET, watch live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra) on Monday.

Several intriguing subplots are brewing around the game, so can both sets of players keep their focus to turn in inspired performances?

José Mourinho has already been playing mind games with United after several bids for Wayne Rooney, with more expected and he also hit out at his rival David Moyes for blocking the bid.

Early impetus this season is more important than ever, following the massive upheaval amongst the top clubs in the Premier League. So the chance for Chelsea to open up a six-point gap between themselves and United is one they are desperate to take.

(MORE: Preview; Manchester United vs. Chelsea)

But United’s players and Moyes will want to get off to a winning start to the season in front of their own fans, in Moyes’ first home game in charge of Manchester United.

A momentous occasion in Manchester awaits us, here are some key battles you can watch out for.

source:  Robin van Persie vs. John Terry

RVP will fancy his chances in this game, but Chelsea managed to thwart the United front man effectively last season as the Blues won at Old Trafford. But in the first game at Stamford Bridge the Dutch international ran the Chelsea backline ragged. Expect some tough challenges early on from Terry as he tries to put RVP in two minds. A battle of minds rather than pace between these two. RVP’s movement is sensational, but so is Terry’s reading of the game.

Michael Carrick vs. Frank Lampard

These two England internationals have battled it out on the biggest stage for many years, with Frank Lampard often coming out on top. Carrick’s passing is sublime and he has been the stalwart of United’s midfield for several seasons. However some question his defensive qualities and marking the elusive Lampard could be tricky. After breaking Chelsea’s all-time goalscoring record last season, Lampard will look to kick on once again under Mourinho. Can Frank prosper again?

Eden Hazard vs. Patrice Evra

If Hazard plays out on the right, this will be an incredibly tough battle between two fiery Gallic players. At 32, Patrice Evra isn’t a spring chicken and Hazard may fancy a chance to run at him. The Belgian winger has impressed Mourinho and this could be an intriguing subplot out on the flank. But Hazard could switch to the left and may give Phil Jones or Chris Smalling an equally tough time as they fill in for the injured Rafael.

source: Getty ImagesDavid Moyes vs. Jose Mourinho

A real battle of wits, as a flamboyant Portuguese tactician comes up against a stoic Scotsman with considerable game-time nous. Will Moyes start with Rooney and throw everyone off? Will any of the pre-match mind games from Mourinho distract United’s players? Whatever happens on the pitch, these coaches are desperate to strike first and put down a marker for the season. Mourinho has won at Old Trafford plenty of times with FC Porto, Chelsea and Real Madrid. Moyes will be managing his first-ever home game for United in the Theater of Dreams.

Will it be a dream start for the new man in charge?

Spanish police dismantle match-fixing scheme in 3rd, 4th tiers

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MADRID (AP) Spanish police have dismantled a match-fixing scheme involving players and clubs in the country’s lower divisions.

Authorities said more than 20 people have been detained as part of the police operation launched on Monday, including players, although no names were immediately disclosed.

The matches under suspicion were in the third and fourth divisions this season and last season.

The match-fixing scheme reportedly involved Chinese betting sites.

The Spanish league said the operation was based on information collected by its analysts about suspicious activities.

UCL preview: Chelsea host Barcelona; Bayern vs. Besiktas

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  • Chelsea vs. Barcelona, at Stamford Bridge
  • Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas, at Allianz Arena
  • Champions League round of 16 resumes on Tuesday

[ UCL: Spurs fight back to draw Juventus | Liverpool thrash Porto in leg 1 ]

Chelsea, mired in some of their worst form since the disastrous 2015-16 season, welcome a Barcelona side enjoying one of the best six-month runs of results in the famed club’s entire history. The Blues have won just four of their last 12 games across all competitions, while the Blaugrana have lost once in 38 games.

On the plus side, Chelsea enter Tuesday’s colossal clash as winners of their last two games — back-to-back wins for the first time in 2018 — having outscored the likes of West Bromwich Albion and Hull City by a combined 7-0. Star striker Alvaro Morata returned to action against Hull after five weeks out with a back injury, thus Antonio Conte has something of a selection dilemma on his hands with the Spaniard perhaps only partially fit, and Olivier Giroud racking up a goal and three assists in the last two games, his first starts for the club.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have conceded just two goals in their last nine games (all competitions) and even managed to overturn their lone defeat, to Espanyol, and advance to the Copa del Rey semifinals (and eventually final). Despite losing Neymar in the summer, Barca mostly cruised through their Champions League group, only dropping points in draws away to Juventus and Olympiacos. Lionel Messi has, strangely, never scored a goal in his eight career appearances against Chelsea, a record which has been spoken about at length in the build-up to Tuesday — similarly to the goal-less record which plagued him against Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom he finally bested back in September.

[ MORE: Man City win big away to Basel | Real Madrid 3-1 PSG ]

In the other round-of-16 first-leg matchup on Tuesday, five-time (soon-to-be six) defending Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich host surprise winners of Group G, Besiktas, ahead of the likes of Monaco, RB Leipzig and Porto.

Since taking over on an interim basis (through the end of the season), Bayern boss Jupp Heynckes has won 21 of 22 games of which he’s been in charge, including four of six games during the group stage en route to finish second behind Paris Saint-Germain, while also racing out to a 19-point lead back home in Germany.

Aguero involved in clash with Wigan fan after FA Cupset

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MANCHESTER, England (AP) Sergio Aguero was involved in a confrontation with a Wigan fan as ugly scenes marred the end of the third-division side’s shock FA Cup win over Manchester City on Monday.

[ MORE: Wigan shock Man City, the world and themselves ]

Fans spilled on to the pitch at DW Stadium as the host celebrated its 1-0 fifth-round win against the runaway English Premier League leader.

Supporters from both clubs were involved in disturbances, while television pictures appeared to show a home supporter and striker Aguero involved in a physical exchange.

Aguero appeared to hit the supporter after the fan said something to the player, and Aguero had to be held back by his City teammates.

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Advertising hoardings were also ripped out and thrown as a pitch invasion by Wigan fans got out of hand while the defeated City players were being escorted off the pitch.

Footage also appeared to show objects, including an advertising board, being thrown at police officers by fans in the City end.

Wigan shock themselves: “Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet”

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Wigan Athletic didn’t just shock Manchester City with their FA Cup fifth-round slaying of the runaway Premier League leaders; nor did they merely shock the rest of the footballing world; they also shocked themselves into disbelief, according to defender Dan Burn.

[ MORE: Goodbye, quadruple! Wigan bounce 10-man City from FA Cup ]

Speaking following Monday’s triumph over Pep Guardiola‘s quadruple-chasing side at the DW Stadium, Burn admitted he himself didn’t know what to make of the night that would undoubtedly highlight and change his own professional career — quotes from the BBC:

“Not sure how it feels, hasn’t sunk in yet. It was a really tough game. The belief was always there. We’ve got Will Grigg, who does what he keeps doing.

“We pride ourselves on our clean sheets. We had a couple bad results before, so we wanted to prove ourselves, so a clean sheet against the best team in England is great.

“Once we scored, the fans really got behind us, just knew we needed to hang on. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.”

[ MORE: Money from Wembley replay “will support Rochdale for 2 or 3 years” ]

Manager Paul Cook was able to articulate his happiness and pride only slightly better — “It feels great” — but offered the highest of praises to his players, whom “had to ride [their] luck at times” during the game, and gave everything they had to the cause, because that’s the only way you beat a team like Man City:

“It feels great. It’s such a severe test. They’re such a strong side and move the ball so well. We had to ride our luck at times and the sending off is always a big incident.

“Our lads deserve credit for their work and some of the blocks they made were outstanding, and to beat Man City you have to do that.”