A 'massive' showdown with Manchester United, working under Rafa Benitez, life at Stamford Bridge and a reunion with Rafael - Chelsea's No.13 speaks to Sky Sports
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 10/03/13 3:01pm
When established competitors Manchester United and Chelsea meet on Sunday afternoon, the FA Cup quarter-final between two of Britain's biggest and most successful clubs will encapsulate the tradition of the world's oldest knockout competition.
But amid the usual customs and much-told romantic tales of 141 years of cup nostalgia, which will precede this weekend's game at Old Trafford, will be another subplot of rivalry that does not have quite such a longstanding past.
Chelsea forward Victor Moses, who could play on the left side of attack, and Manchester United right-back Rafael are likely to come into direct opposition. However, it will not be the first time the pair have met on a football pitch.
In 2007, they were facing each other for England and Brazil, respectively, at the Under 17 World Cup in South Korea. England, a team including United's Danny Welbeck - who will likely be another familiar opponent of Moses on Sunday, won the group game 2-1 in Goyang City and went on to the knockout rounds before eventually losing to Germany in the quarter-finals.
Despite England's victory over Brazil, the performance of Rafael left an impression on Moses. In a December 2009 interview with FourFourTwo magazine, the former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic star named the defender as the toughest opponent he had faced in his career up to that date. The pair have since faced each other competitively twice at club level, including Chelsea's dramatic 5-4 win in these season's Capital One Cup, and Moses could be expecting another tough game on Sunday.
In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports at an appearance to promote EA SPORTS FIFA 13 Ultimate Team, Moses laughed with an element of surprise when reminded of his previous assessment of Rafael: "Did I say that?
"He was having a great tournament [in 2007]. It was difficult for players to get past him in wide areas. When we did play against them, he proved what a good player he was. But we won the game and qualified for the next round."
Moses had scored three goals in two games in the U17 World Cup six years ago prior to that game against Brazil. But it ultimately proved to be his final match of the tournament. He was substituted after 74 minutes, having sustained a thigh injury that he then aggravated when attempting to rush his recovery.
"It was really tough," he recalled of his fitness setback. "Anyone would like to play in a youth World Cup. I had been looking forward to playing but then got injured. I felt really sad. I tried to get back to fitness as quickly as possible and went to training but hurt my leg again. I made it worse and could not finish the tournament. But that is football. You just have to move on.
"The U17 World Cup was a lovely time. If you look at most of the players involved in that tournament, almost everyone has moved on and played at a bigger club. Welbeck was there as well and is a massive player now at United. The U17 World Cup was great experience. Growing up as a player, that tournament means a lot to me."
Moses, though, is not one to dwell on the past in what has been an extremely difficult life and career. His parents were murdered in religious riots in his native Nigeria when he was a child. As an 11-year-old, he fled to England, where he was later spotted by Palace in 2007 before earning a 2010 move to Wigan and then, last summer, joining Chelsea.
|FA Cup 2012/13||Victor Moses|
|Mins per Goal||107.0|
|Shot Conversion %||66.7%|
|Chances Created (inc. assists)||2|
At international level, Moses represented England throughout youth levels. But perceived shabby treatment from U21 boss Stuart Pearce and former senior team manager Fabio Capello prompted him to turn his back on the Three Lions and decide to answer the call from Nigeria.
His decision was duly rewarded in February when he helped his country win their first Africa Cup of Nations in almost two decades. It was the first major honour of his career to leave him "delighted".
But Moses, now 22 years old, will hope it is just the first of many trophies. He was still a Wigan player when Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup last season and so has only experienced the current turbulent campaign at Stamford Bridge, in which he has made 29 appearances in all competitions. However, defending the FA Cup is a main ambition and it could be the silver lining on an otherwise disappointing season for the club.
The next stage on the road to Wembley would be a famous win at United, who will be stinging from their controversial European exit at the hands of Real Madrid in midweek. Having not travelled for Chelsea's Europa League last 16 first-leg defeat at Steaua Bucharest on Thursday, a fully-fit Moses is widely expected to start at Old Trafford and is in determined mood.
"It is a massive game," he said. "Not just for me but for the rest of the players as well. If we can win that, we will get to the semis. So, it means a lot to the club and the players. As a player, you always want to play against a massive club and test your ability. I am looking forward to it."I always enjoy playing against big clubs. I have played against United before. Playing for Chelsea against United is a massive thing for me. If we can win that, get to the semis and win the tournament, it would be a huge achievement for us. We won the FA Cup last year, so, if we can win it again this year, it would only be good for the club. It is a great tournament and everyone would like to win it. We are looking forward to the game against United. It is not going to be easy for us but it is not going to be easy for United either."
Moses helped book the showdown with United after scoring the second goal in Chelsea's 2-0 fifth round win over Middlesbrough at the end of February. But the game at The Riverside will forever be overshadowed by post-match events, specifically under-fire Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez's astonishing criticism of the club's fans and board.
Chelsea supporters had made their feelings clear before and after with many protests against Benitez, who has been unpopular due to his connections with former club Liverpool, where he won the 2005 Champions League - knocking out Chelsea in the semi-finals en route - along with the 2006 FA Cup - which also included a semi-final win over Chelsea, since succeeding Roberto Di Matteo last November.
It has also been speculated some of the Chelsea squad are unhappy with Benitez. But Moses said: "He is a great manager. He has got good experience. When you look at what he has done in the past, he has done a lot. When he was at Liverpool, he won trophies, including the Champions League. My game has improved under him and I have had advice from him."
So, for Moses, everything appears positive. Despite his approaching reunion with Rafael, his mentality is clearly to look forward. There have certainly been no regrets about joining Chelsea.
"It has been good experience for me so far at the club," he explained. "I want to enjoy my time and keep playing football whenever I am on the pitch. It is an honour to be a Chelsea player."
He added: "It is a big difference in terms of going into a big club. I really enjoyed my time at Palace and at Wigan. They are both great clubs and they looked after me when I was there. [But] coming to Chelsea is a totally different environment in terms of fighting for titles every season. That is what you really want. It was time for me to move up and try and win titles. I am at the right club."
Victor Moses appears in EA SPORTS FIFA 13 Ultimate Team. Build your squad, acquire new players and compete with your Ultimate Team. Buy Ultimate Team points NOW at GAME.co.uk